Cross Timbers Trails Editor-in-Chief
At the Division I forum meeting, held Nov. 4, the pros and cons were weighed in the presence of majority faculty and two students. This was the second of two forums held recently for the topic of Tarleton State University joining a Division I conference.
Dottavio opened the forum explaining how the talk about going Division I all started. Tarleton State University has been looking at going Division I since 2003. The university is preparing to make a decision to join a new conference if it receives an invitation, preferably from the Southland Conference.
The stability of Tarleton’s current conference, Lone Star Conference, became a concern when Oklahoma schools, Abilene Christian and University of Incarnate Word moved conferences. The Lone Star Conference has made a small upturn around with Western New Mexico and Texas Permian Basin joining.
Dottavio said the primary questions were how this move aligns with Tarleton’s vision and how traditions of the university were shaped from athletic events and cost.
Another potential issue is the competitiveness of all athletic programs and “being a smaller fish in a much bigger pond,” said Dottavio.
When Reisman took the floor, he explained how a feasibility study showed that making the move to Division I is logical. A collegiate consulting firm out of Atlanta stayed at the campus three to four days and gathered information about all areas of the university. They recommended to continue the inquiry to Division I.
Reisman made the point that the university has changed substantially in the last five years, let alone the past 10. He put in perspective where the campus could be in 2020.
Tarleton’s men’s basketball played an exhibition game against the University of Texas Nov. 6 and is going to receive $10,000. Reisman mentioned Texas State, a university in the Southland Conference, received $90,000 to play South Methodist University.
“Playing an exhibition game on national television, we couldn’t market and pay for that visibility. You won’t get the visibility at Division II, but that’s okay. Marketing and branding is going to be more prevalent to the state and nation,” said Reisman.
The Lone Star Conference is stabilized now, but Reisman believes our university is as good as those currently in the Southland Conference.
“The biggest thing Tarleton would bring to the Southland conference is the excitement of our student body; we have tremendous student participation. We have Texan Alley. I don’t think anyone has anything like Texan Alley. [With] the spirit and the tradition we have here with our students, [Southland Conference] will be very impressed and surprised,” said Reisman.
Tye Minckler discussed the plan to reach the university budget of a Division I university. Budgets from other universities in the Southland Conference range $10-16 million. Tarleton’s goal is to reach $12 million in a time span of four to six years. Tarleton stands currently at seven million.
Once Tarleton received a bid to join a Division I conference, it would have a four-year probationary period when two-and-a-half million dollars would be generated. This money will come from the athletic fee and the sum of charging students who do not normally pay, such as students at the Fort Worth campus. With a three percent growth in students and the fee raising 10 percent, they should generate about $500,000.
Right now, Tarleton is in the lower percentile out of other universities that receives this funding, because the funding has not kept up with our growth. They plan to ask for an increase in funding to help Tarleton with additional funds for scholarships that are required for Division I schools. Tarleton is planning on asking for more than a million dollars.