We were impressed with Texas A&M University-Commerce’s new athletic director, Ryan Ivey, in his press conference last Monday. He emphasized supporting the school’s athletic programs and student-athletes while embracing the community. Good words.
Now, it just remains to be seen if he will be able to turn those words into action. We hope he can.
A&M-Commerce has not been consistently competitive in any of their sports over the past five years.
Sure, some programs have been more successful than others. But these programs are not competing for Lone Star Conference championships.
We think it would be unfair to place all of the blame on former athletic director Carlton Cooper, although he certainly shoulders a significant portion of it. Nor would it be fair to blame coaches or students.
But it is clear that something has not been working.
Funding is not to blame.
The students passed an athletic referendum recently, which gave a portion of the student services fee that students are charged each year to the athletic department. This is in addition to the money the athletic department is budgeted each year. Obviously, more money would not hurt. But, in tough economic times when the university’s funding from Austin is shrinking, allocating more money is not an option.
Now, it is up to Ivey to spend the money the department does have wisely.
Facilities are not to blame, either. Under Cooper, Memorial Stadium received a new scoreboard and bleachers. A new football lockeroom was built. The Field House was rennovated. Again, better facilities would help, but that area has not been ignored in recent years.
Students have often complained of a lack of school spirit on the campus and in the city.
But that is changing. More students are living on campus than ever before. With the student enrollment climbing every year, a potential fan base of students and alumni is growing as well.
Some programs, like the men’s basketball program, have a strong community following.
The community is hungry to support winning programs. So are the students.
In order for that to happen, Ivey will need to follow through on his promise to embrace the community.
The athletic department has also had more than its fair share of scandals, from student-athletes drinking underage to the infamous “team-building exercise” comments from the former football coach when members of the football team stole student newspapers across campus.
To win this community’s heart and support, Ivey’s department will not only need to be successful; it will need to be above reproach.
That’s a tall order. We believe Ivey can meet and exceed expecatations, if given support from the A&M-Commerce administration and the Hunt County community.