Lonn Reisman never gave up on his dream.
As a result, it won’t be long before Tarleton State University's 85,000 alumni and 1,400-plus current students wake up to see his dream come true.
On Tuesday, TSU President James Hurley announced that the school accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference as the NCAA Division II Texans make their long-anticipated transition to Division I status. Hurley and WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd signed paperwork during an upbeat ceremony in Wisdom Gym before a large crowd of TSU officials, students and alumni plus several dignitaries.
The dream wasn’t something that happened overnight, of course.
While Reisman, who is in his 26th year as Tarleton’s athletic director, was at the podium he said, “The 16-year dream has become a reality.”
Reisman read the words of a famous quote from inventor Thomas Edison — a reminder of determination that he had kept in his office for 16 years — “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close to success they were when they gave up.”
After the ceremony, the E-T spoke with Reisman and asked if the momentous occasion was emotional for him.
“It is — when you pour your life into something and watch it go to the highest level,” Reisman said.
The E-T asked Reisman if he had doubts along the way about the dream becoming a reality.
“I think (other) people doubted it was going to happen,” he said. “But I never had doubt in my mind. I just wanted to push forward. When the Texan Club Board of Directors inspires you, you don’t give up on your dream. You can’t give up on something when you’re so close to tasting it.”
A TSU news release noted that the invitation is contingent on completion of a four-year NCAA reclassification process. But in the meantime, the Texans will begin regular-season WAC athletic competition during the 2020-21 school year, and be eligible for NCAA Division I postseason play starting with the 2024-25 season.
“The next four years will take courage as we go into Division I and compete,” Reisman stated.
That was one more way of verbalizing the school’s slogan for the Division I transition — “Next level ready.”
Hurley reminded the crowd during the ceremony, “As I said many times, this isn’t only about athletics. It is (also) about enhancing our academic pedigree.”
As if the meaty Division I announcement weren’t enough of a feast for the enthusiastic crowd, an official from Texas A&M University who spoke also added another huge slab of beef for the Texans to devour.
First, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp tossed out the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a (football) game at Kyle Field (the Aggies’ home field) to play A&M in College Station?”
That prompted good-natured chants of “beat the Aggies” from the crowd.
Next, Jay Graham — a member of Texas A&M’s Board of Regents — told the crowd that he was issuing an invitation for the Texans to come to College Station to take on the Aggies in a football matchup.
Hurley was quick to respond from the podium, “We accept that invitation” — a declaration that set off a loud chorus of approval.
Earlier, Hurley had addressed the school’s alumni by saying that he looks forward to the day they will eventually be able to return to see the Texans win their first NCAA Division I national championship.
“We will be doing that, I assure you,” Hurley stated from the podium.
TSU’s news release states, “Tarleton will become the ninth member of the conference for 2020-21, joining California Baptist University, Chicago State University, Dixie State University, Grand Canyon University, New Mexico State University, Seattle University, the University of Texas Rio
Grande Valley and Utah Valley.
During the reclassification period, 13 of Tarleton’s 14 sports will compete in the WAC, while the football program will compete as an independent at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. Tarleton will add women’s soccer during the transition to give the Texans 15 sports.”
Reisman added, “We are not a small college any more. We are a major university.”
Among the other dignitaries who attended were state representatives J.D. Sheffield and DeWayne Burns, plus Charles Stenholm, a former longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1979-2005).