(March 17, 2018) — My good friend Savion Washington came to Tarleton to play football and is now a graduate assistant in athletic communications at the university. Great dude.
Savion interrupted my Twitter frenzy concerning UMBC beating Virginia last night to remind me this isn’t about Tarleton.
But anyone who knows anything about the Tarleton basketball program had to ponder the same thing I did.
Perhaps this is why…..?
Yes a 16 can beat a 1. You bet. The remote possibility always exists the champion of the Southland Conference could go into March Madness against unbelievable odds and beat a Duke, a Michigan State, a North Carolina or yes, a Virginia.
The fact the Hoos got beat by a Who? answers one major question.
Why does the man who built this program want to risk getting all his teams smacked around by these D1 schools with more money, better facilities and, at least currently, better athletes?
The answer – pot odds.
The man came to a special place and built a special program. I bet there were people on the Division II exploratory committee at Tarleton back in the early 1990s who thought the still young Coach Lonn Reisman was nuts for wanting to leave the NAIA and begin (gulp) PAYING scholarships for athletes.
Well look how good that has worked out.
I’m not blind to the fact Tarleton has a lot going for it other than its athletics department. But I’m also not blind to athletics having played a significant role in the explosion of Tarleton.
My father and uncle went to school with a couple thousand students.
My brothers, cousins and I went with about 8,000.
A few years ago, the university celebrated topping 10,000, and now that number is above 13,000.
Now imagine if that had been Tarleton. Playing as the No. 64 seed. Against the overall No. 1, the team picked more than any other on brackets all across America.
And you beat them.
At halftime of that game, I very honestly had no clue what UMBC stood for. I saw BC and thought British Columbia and thought ‘Aww they let a Canadian school in, that’s neat. Their lead won’t last though.’
A few minutes later I had to leave the TCU-Syracuse game, flipping on the Hoos vs. Who?
University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Every Cable-TV owning household in America now knows what UMBC stands for.
Its athletics website crashed because its bandwidth was the bug and the traffic coming its way was a mack truck. Smack.
Its social media literally exploded. Less than 45 minutes after the final buzzer @umbcathletics had gained 25,000 followers on Twitter.
ESPN loves them on Michael Jordan, LeBron James level.
It’s a good thing all this publicity is free, because I GUARANTEE UMBC could never, ever afford it.
It is – literally – worth Tens of Millions of Dollars.
Teenagers in California now know about UMBC. In Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas. Everywhere in between, too.
Somewhere a potential student happened upon their website for the first time tonight and said, oh look, they are really good in this area of study I like. It’s happening. You know it is.
And that is invaluable.
It won’t happen for everyone, but it will for some. And it doesn’t have to be basketball.
More people know Dallas Baptist for its baseball program than for any other reason. Villanova has less than 11,000 students. But basketball – 1985 and 2016 national champions – has made the university a household name.
Twenty years ago, nobody thought much of Gonzaga. Now it’s not unordinary to have someone in your office or friend pool picking Gonzaga to win it all. And I bet it’s not unordinary for the children of bracket fillers, the future college students of America to ponder ‘What is Gonzaga, where is it, I’ll look it up.’
To steal a line from Lonn Reisman, athletics may not be the foundation a university is built on, but athletics is often the front porch of a university, the face, what people see first.
Earlier tonight, I didn’t know UMBC existed.
Now, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County has a mansion on a hilltop, with stadium lights lining the drive up to a front porch of mighty pillars, a front porch decked out and all of it lined in gold.
What if that had been Tarleton?
There are a hundred reasons to consider why Tarleton should remain in Division II.
There are also other reasons why Division I makes some sense.
The fact that UMBC is currently the darling of the country is one big reason why the exploratory committee, Coach Reisman and university president Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio, together, should take a long, open, honest, neutral look at the possibility that could be Tarleton.
It could be the Texans earning more publicity than this university could ever, in 100 years, afford to buy.
All that said, I calm back down, and yes, Savion, I realize. It’s about UMBC. It’s their night.
But it’s still food for thought. Food I hope people in the decision-making process will at least munch a few bites of.
Regardless, it was a lot of fun to watch and a great way to learn exactly what the heck UMBC stood for.
Thank you Who? For Beating the Hoos.
Enjoy your time.
Perhaps one day it will be ours.