Tarleton State University just announced its newest football schedule, and as The Flash Today sports editor Brad Keith wrote, the Texan football team is in for a brutal road stretch as they try to improve upon their 5-5 season from a year ago.
One thing for certain – every night game the Texans play on the road will be under better lighting than at their home stadium.
Improvements are a big thing for Tarleton, with new residence halls popping up and well over $220 million in capital improvements on the way over the next five years. In recent years Tarleton has enjoyed many new improvements, yet still has one of the worst lit football stadiums in the state.
What? Surely a college has better lighting than, let’s say, Hico, right?
Okay, how about six-man teams like Zephyr and Gordon?
Nope and nope.
In fact, those two six-man schools have better lights than all the rest above. Obviously, I have not been to every football stadium in Texas, but in 30 years of covering high school football, Tarleton’s Memorial Stadium is still the “winner” for having the worst lighting.
Worst as in football stadiums in Dublin and Hico have three times the amount of lumens that Tarleton does. I have been running around with a camera and light meter all those years – I can show you the data.
We are going to have the worst lighting again this year as things in the budget get rearranged and all the small pieces of the puzzle come together in making long-term goals for the university.
“Next year,” is what I am hearing again, and I have been hearing “next year” since before Art Briles won his first state championship at Stephenville High School.
I understand there is a budget and, due to unexpected growth, plans have to change. But changing/improving your lights at your football stadium shouldn’t mean you climb the poles and put in new light bulbs (I am almost sure a couple of the current bulbs were around during the first state title run) once every few years.
Maybe this will help. We have a state-power football team and a college team inches away from the NCAA Division II playoffs, and the intramural softball teams at Tarleton play under better lighting. Basically, it means the intramural teams play under safer conditions than school teams.
Memorial Stadium is not only poorly lit it; it’s lit unevenly. Tarleton’s end zones easily have 30 percent less light than other parts of the field. Ask any receiver who has played at Tarleton versus “anywhere else.” Ask them about going down into the “pit” and looking for a ball. Of course, if you are a receiver who has dropped a potential touchdown there, you can now insert your excuse.
Dragging in massive trucks with attached stadium lights are the only hopes of television channels like ESPN coming to town to broadcast games.
With maybe one playoff football game a year, Stephenville and Tarleton are missing opportunities in both the areas of economics and recruiting. Tarleton State University, with its location, should be a football hub with playoff games being booked here at least four rounds deep into the playoffs.
There are not many occasions that bring a young person and their entire family to town from a 100 or more miles away and hold them right there in the heart of your university for more than three hours. Now, of course, the youngsters in the band, cheering or playing football can always later describe the action for those who couldn’t see the touchdown. This is only a slight exaggeration.
I love Tarleton football, and I very much appreciate the hard work and dedication of the planners and doers at TSU. But guys, the time has come to stop putting it off and get things done, starting with the lights.
I know it’s all on the drawing board and unprecedented growth calls for certain measures, but our Friday and Saturday night “jewel” doesn’t shine the way others do – not even close. This isn’t about daydreams but a “field of dreams,” where if you build it – and “light” it – they will come.
So, for now, I am off the soapbox and back to patiently waiting for next year.
Just a note — If I pass away before “next year,” maybe someone will be kind enough to draw me a small plaque with a Sharpie marker on one of the light poles with the saying “Russell Huffman – although dim, he attempted to light the way.”
Russell Huffman is chief roust-about and step-and-fetch-it at The Flash Today. His previous work includes both print and broadcast journalism with awards from the Texas Press Association for news writing and photography. A former Army officer, Russell earned his commission through the Tarleton State University ROTC program. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole. To contact Russell, do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.