Tarleton State University is headed to the Next Level

On Oct. 1, 2019, Tarleton State University officially received word that the university has received an invitation to join the Division 1 Western Athletic Conference. To discuss the move to Division 1 and the changes that will come from the move, a Next Level Forum was held for students, faculty and staff on the same day at the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Auditorium. The forum allowed the Tarleton family to learn about what the move to Division 1 will look like and ask questions about the transition.

The forum presented the details behind the referendum to raise the intercollegiate athletic fee from $22 per credit hour to $35 per credit hour. The new fee will also maintain a fee cap that will not exceed 13 credit hours or $455 per enrolled student. This fee would be applied to all Tarleton Students attending Stephenville, Fort Worth and Waco campuses. Students from these campuses will not have to pay any additional fees for admission into any Tarleton intercollegiate athletic events.

The new fee is over a 5 percent increase so, the Student Government Association cannot act on behalf of the student body to vote to approve or deny the referendum. Instead, the decision falls on the entire student body to vote on the referendum.

“October 14 through 16, the Homecoming ballot will open. This referendum will be on the ballot,” said SGA President Tyler Schuster, “ so you are going to get your voice heard and you are going to get to vote on it.”

This invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference is one that Tarleton State University President James Hurley believes will greatly benefit the profile of the university and pull Tarleton into the spotlight. “Do we really want to be the best kept secret?” Hurley said in the forum, “I didn’t know a lot about Tarleton State (when I was interviewed) and I don’t think a lot of the other folks across the country know how special Tarleton State is.”

Hurley also said that he believed that outside and partially inside the State of Texas, no one really knows the potential Tarleton has and how much that potential can grow. “Just from the recent announcement that broke last night, we’ve already been across most all of the major newspapers; Headlines from FOX 4 etc., that we have not been on in a number of years. The visibility that athletics brings will raise the (university) profile.”

Amongst the change in the athletic fee, there are also plans to include other sports into the athletic program.

“We’re doing a study right now…and we are looking into adding some sports,” said Vice President of Intercollegiate A t h l e t i c s , Lonn Reisman, “ e s p e c i a l l y W o m e n ’ s soccer.”

Reisman stated that Women’s soccer is a sport that has been growing and has been found in various institutions and is also a part of the WAC.

Hurley also added that there will be research done to determine if it is possible to add a club or official swimming team.

“With the new aquatic center, we are looking at ensuring that the aquatic center is NCAA and Olympic certified,” said Hurley, “That would give us the ability to add either an NCAA sanctioned or a club-level swimming.” Additional research will also be conducted to determine if an official Men and Women Lacrosse team would be feasible, if there are enough teams to compete against. As we move into the new conference, another imminent change is within football because the WAC does not have Football division, Tarleton football will operate as an independent team when Tarleton joins the conference.

“The WAC is reviving football,” said Reisman, “We will probably be an independent for about two years. Hopefully, by that third year,
we’re going to see how the WAC has established football.”

With Tarleton going Division 1, there are some concerns from members of the Tarleton Family. One concern raised came from Mr. Mark Holtorf, Associate Professor of Theatre and Area Coordinator. Holtorf is concerned about the potential debt to students rising when the fees for going Division 1 are set in place.

“Seems more like a net cost than a net benefit,” stated Holtorf to which Lori Beaty, Interim VP for Finance and Administration replied that the student athletic fee is capped at 13 hours meaning students cannot be charged the fee beyond 13 credit hours. Beaty added that much of the student debt problem is from loans being excessive. Furthermore, the benefits from going Division 1 are the added scholarships that students can receive.

Despite skepticisms from some staff, there are those that are passionate about the need to go Division 1 such as Casey Hogan, Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing, Broadcasting. Hogan presented his point on why we should go Division 1 by relating it back to when he was a student at Tarleton and there was the vote to implement an intercollegiate athletic fee into the tuition. He said back then it was the mentality of “paying it forward” that strung people then to vote for the implementation and that current students and faculty need to have the same mindset.

“Do what you think is the best for the future of Tarleton” said Hogan. “This is an important moment in Tarleton history and I encourage each and every one of you to look at the issue, debate the issue and hopefully pay it forward for our students in the future.”

Reisman backed up Hogan’s point.. He was passionate about taking the step up saying, “Our profile is just as good as anyone in the state of Texas, but this one jump gives us that next level up.” Reisman went even further to say “Look where we are right now in Division 2.We’re at the height in division 2 in this country. People are pursuing us because they see the potential of Tarleton State University.”

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