The decision for Tarleton to go up to Division I as a part of the Western Athletic Conference next year came as quite a surprise. Is that the best option? Is it better to be a star on a small stage (Division II) or a bit player on the big stage (Division I)?
Tarleton’s main campus is located in a rural community, away from the interstate. Most Division I schools are in urban areas.
One problem I see is the lack of a local television station to cover the university. For example, the basketball coach’s show of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley (previously known as Pan American University and U.T. Pan American), a member of the WAC was telecast on one or the other television stations through the years.
Travel is another consideration. The teams would have to fly to the away games. Most of the WAC schools are in an urban area, near major airports. Unless Clark Field could handle charter flights, there would have to be busing to DFW for their flights.
Tarleton does have a wonderful football stadium and basketball arena for Division I. Wisdom Gym is equal in quality to the U.T.R.G.V. Field House, which was built about the same time. In fact, it seems that Wisdom Gym now has a larger seating capacity than the Field House. I’ve seen more school spirit shown in the “Friendly Confines of Wisdom Gym” in the last 15 years than I did in 30 years watching basketball in the U.T.R.G.V. Field House.
But what about the baseball and softball complexes? Are there plans to bring them up to Division I quality? For example, The ballpark at U.T.R.G.V. is a former professional independent league park. Prior to that park they had a very nice one, Jody Ramsey Stadium. I recall the Texans played a couple of games there in the early 90’s during one of the tournaments. Other teams in the WAC have up-to-date parks.
In the WAC there will be fewer double-header games in basketball, which we have enjoyed very much.
On the other hand, the Lone Star Conference has become too large a conference to make interesting competition and rivalries within the conference.
There would seem to be a natural rivalry between Tarleton and U.T.R.G.V., a “Highway 281 Series. Looking at the history between the two schools, the Texans have played the Broncs (now Vaqueros) only once in Basketball, in 1963, when Pan American won the N.A.I.A. National Championship.
They also played each other in baseball in the N.A.I.A. District Series in 1966, in Stephenville, with the Texans winning 2 of 3 games. As stated earlier, they played some games in Edinburg during the early 1990’s, with the Broncs winning.