If you're a Texas State Bobcats athletics supporter and you've managed to hang on and pay attention this long, this has officially been the week from hell. Fresh off an excruciating beatdown at the hands of Arkansas State, we were subjected to three days of silence on the status of lame duck head coach Dennis Franchione as fan discontent rose from a collective grumble to a dull roar.
Then athletics director Larry Teis poured gasoline on the smoldering wreckage of Texas State's season. San Marcos Daily Record beat writer Joe Vozzelli released bits and pieces of an e-mail Teis sent to him yesterday on Twitter. Tonight, he released the e-mail in its entirety.
Vozzelli notes that Denise Trauth has the power to overrule Larry Teis on coaching decisions, which if one reads between the lines could mean that she's considering doing so if someone in the system is willing to leak that to the local paper.
She'd be well advised to do so. Keeping Dennis Franchione around for another season would wreck most of the fragile momentum that's been built in developing the Bobcat fanbase from scratch, at least to the point that this season hasn't already done so.
But it's becoming increasingly apparent that Franchione's continued employment is a distraction from the real problem at hand. After reading through his e-mail to Vozzelli, our management and editors (comprised of mostly impartial writers from Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, UTSA, or have no loyalty in particular) and myself are in agreement that Larry Teis is not fit to lead the Texas State University athletics department.
Good god, that e-mail
I wanted to believe the snippets looked worse out of context and that the entire e-mail would help me better understand Teis' perspective. That perhaps he was just doing a poor job of getting a more reasonable viewpoint across.
Nope. That didn't happen at all. It's even worse than I feared.
Teis' e-mail is a Worst Hits of All Time list chock full of factual inaccuracies, sympathy begging, blaming the fans for all his problems, and at times borders on general incoherence. It's shockingly unprofessional and is not befitting of an FBS athletics director.
Here's a detailed breakdown of everything that is so very wrong with this e-mail. Apologies for the lack of paragraphs, but Larry Teis doesn't care about your eyes.
We always have to stress academics and compliance first, then focus on wins and losses off the field. Traveling around the country attending football games and also visiting other campuses in the State of Texas, we still have a need for new and updated facilities, such as a larger weight room and an indoor practice facility. You saw that indoor at Arkansas state. Lafayette has an indoor also. You saw the recent blurb in the Statesman. I would ask you, do your research. Tell me what enrollment size of a university has to do with wins and losses? What does academic quality have to do with wins and losses? We have strong academic standards and a small academic support staff. Out all all FBS football playing schools, we may have the toughest standards compared to the size of the support staff. If it was enrollment size, Baylor and TCU would not be the two best in the state per CFP (College Football Playoff) rankings the past few years.
My head's still spinning from reading this, and it's the first paragraph.
So Teis here appears to blame a lack of facilities and high academic standards for Texas State's lack of success. Raising money for facilities is his job, and there's long been ample evidence to suggest the university isn't maximizing their donor potential outside of a handful of mega-rich donors like Jerry Fields and the Diepenhorst family. His lack of finesse in athletic department-fan relations certainly has played a role, albeit it's unknown how much.
The more problematic excuse is the academics. The admissions standards have long been an excuse used by the athletic department going way back to their FCS days when the excuse was slightly more understandable for a school placed in the same conference as diploma mills like McNeese State or Nicholls. These days, it's not as if Texas State's general admissions standards are any higher than, say Texas Tech's or UTSA's.
It would've taken some work on his part to prove his claims, but let's be real: Texas State was once a party school. Its admissions standards now are still incredibly low by general standards. We're all going to be naturally skeptical of any cries for sympathy about high academic standards. If Teis has any proof that Texas State doesn't lower their standards for athletes compared to other regional rivals, he needed to have released it by now.
Dismissively telling us to "do your research" when this program's hardly even worth following at this point is just adding even more unnecessary condescension.
Additionally, unless I'm somehow reading this incorrectly, he's indirectly throwing his bosses, President Trauth and the Board of Regents, and their decisions under the bus in public as athletic director by insinuating that high academic standards are somehow hamstringing Texas State's ability to compete in athletics. How is that in any way acceptable?
There also happens to be three academic powers out there that have managed to raise their profiles immensely in football despite highly stringent admissions standards. If Duke, Northwestern, and Stanford can claw themselves out of their respective conferences' basements into national prominence, it's not exactly hard to see how Texas State could manage to compete for conference titles in what's usually the lowest league on the FBS totem pole. Even Vanderbilt competed briefly in the danged SEC for a few years with the right coaching hire.
By the way, if Teis is having so much trouble keeping up with those supposedly stringent academic standards because of a small support staff, why has he earned two concurrent 10% salary raises in the past two years and become the second highest paid employee in the athletic department? Couldn't those raises have gone to hiring a couple more support staff if academics are so important? Or perhaps some of the whopping $1,719,023 that goes to the athletic director's office could've boosted the budget of Athletic Academic Services ($270,423) just a tiny bit?
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
Putting things into perspective, if you compare us to our Sun Belt peers, schools in Texas in the American Athletic Conference, and Conference USA, we should be disappointed that this year we failed to do only what Houston and Arkansas State have done the past three seasons. On the field, here are how many losing seasons each of these fifteen schools have incurred the past three years.
Houston - 0
Arkansas State - 0
Texas State - 1
Louisiana Lafayette - 1
Rice - 1
North Texas - 2
UTSA - 2
UTEP - 2
Ga State - 2
Troy - 2
NM State - 3
Idaho - 3
La Monroe - 3
S. Alabama - 3
SMU - 3
This, at least, sheds some light on the statistical claim that made my boss's head damn near explode yesterday. He's right in that Texas State technically only has one losing season within the past three, which in all honesty is a fairly pathetic benchmark to measure oneself against in the first place. But what about overall winning percentage within the past three years compared to this arbitrary list of 15 Sun Belt and regional schools that he picked to make himself and the program look better?
Asterisks indicate teams that have been to bowls in the past four years since Texas State moved up to FBS in 2012. Hey, whaddya know? I can do arbitrary statistics too.
Neither Teis's table nor mine tell the whole story, especially when it comes to the programs' respective futures, which is what everyone is rightly concerned about. At this point, Texas State's in objectively worse shape than Idaho, Georgia State, and New Mexico State, all of whom beat the Bobcats this year.
Troy has a young head coach who helped the Trojans play with a pulse at times this season despite a lack of talent while Texas State essentially gave up on the season after the South Alabama game. SMU's trajectory should eventually turn upward under Chad Morris, and UNT made a great hire in Seth Littrell. USA's still in a better place despite losing to Texas State in a freak game played in a typhoon.
So at this point, Texas State's future outlook is about on par with UTSA, who beat the Bobcats in their first ever year of existence and played an objectively tougher schedule this season, ULM, who has a chance to turn things around with their next hire, and maybe Rice and UTEP.
Franchione almost totally neutered Tyler Jones' development and Robert Lowe is gone. The defense is without any reliable linebackers, the secondary's a mess, and the defensive line hasn't done much outside of when Michael Odiari was a one-man sack machine in 2014. The level of underachievement in 2015 was so complete that Texas State was the only Sun Belt team to not land a single player on the 1st or 2nd all-conference teams.
And Teis wants to argue with the fans for being concerned about the future of the program?
As I have said before, the previous twenty years of Division 1 football in San Marcos, we had only 4 seasons of 6 wins or more and no conference championships. In the past 12 seasons, we have had 6 seasons of 6 wins or more and 2 conference championships. Is that great? No, but it has been improvement and also places us ahead of many of our competitors.
Teis conveniently leaves out that the 2008 "title" came with a gigantic asterisk since Central Arkansas would've pulled a Georgia Southern and rightly won the Southland after moving up a division if the NCAA hadn't been obsessed with enforcing archaic rules. Still, that season was more fun than anything Franchione's put together, which is probably an indictment in its own right.
Putting that aside, we all know that Texas State's 1-AA/FCS history was a complete shambles pre-2005. Anybody who knows the program is aware of that. But again, that statement doesn't hold much water since most of those competitors passed Texas State on the gridiron this year, and things aren't looking great for next season either.
Despite all of the potential this program has in its recruiting base, in its possible media footprint, and in a large and mostly untapped alumni base, not to mention an active fan base that will show up to support a winner, Teis and his department have managed to fall over themselves for years making excuse after excuse (with few concrete facts to back them up) for why Texas State seemingly can't take advantage of any of those positives. Does he really think people are going to stand up and cheer for that?
An Embarrassment to Bobcat Nation
But those weren't even the worst parts. The closing arguments alone should get him fired.
I got this job because of a compliance disaster. Maybe getting a Ph.D. at a university and serving as athletic director hurts me, because I busted my tail, worked hard, struggled in class, took out loans, worked 2 jobs, and graduated with a doctorate degree. I want our athletes to first appreciate hard work and understand that getting an education is what 99% of them will fall back on.
The media and fans could care less if you walk across the stage, they want you to walk across the end zone. I told you Lafayette and SMU are 2 schools fans pushed me to be like, now they are both in NCAA trouble.
I'm not going to pretend Underdog Dynasty is some highbrow publication and bastion of professionalism. But passive aggressive sympathy lobbying and blaming the fans for all of his problems is going to get Teis absolutely nowhere. And accusing the fans and media of not caring about academics at all is both churlish and inaccurate. Once again, Teis throws mud on a fanbase that's far more nuanced than he gives them credit for.
I personally come from a family and a background that very much values a quality education, and I absolutely understand that having a degree is necessary for athletes as many who don't graduate have a very tough time making their way through the world.
I donate to the Bobcat Club precisely so these athletes can afford their cost of attendance and get a good education. I know many donors that donate for the exact same reason, despite our view of the athletic department's takeover of the club in 2004 as a method of providing emotional blackmail for retaining funding despite mediocre to poor results. We very much resent it, and a private donor organization that gives result-dependent donations to the department couldn't be more necessary right now.
Are there Bobcat fans who don't care the least bit about academics? Absolutely. But you don't throw them under the bus publicly unless you have something to gain from it strategically. Which in this case, Teis seemingly doesn't. Especially if he wants to get donations for that indoor practice facility he was whining about. That's taught right at the start of "How to Be an Athletic Director 101."
Above all, do these remarks really seem like they come from someone who wants to be here? It seems like every time Teis is asked tough questions, he comes off like he hates his job and despises the Bobcat fanbase for daring to ask questions that are common at almost every FBS school in America. There are numerous anecdotes flying around of him almost reflexively shrinking away from donors at athletic events out of the fear they'll criticize him to his face.
Is this the image that President Trauth really wants Texas State Athletics to project to the nation?
Change is Needed. Now.
On a personal note, I've never been more embarrassed as a Bobcat that my alma mater has been represented publicly in this way by its leadership. Granted, I wasn't here for Manny Matsakis's reign of terror, but my point stands.
So much of this frustration and embarrassment could've been avoided, too. When Texas State faced adversity in the past, if they'd said something to the effect of "we hear your concerns and agree that these mediocre to bad results aren't acceptable. We expect more from ourselves, and we will make changes to get Texas State athletics to where it needs to be," it likely would've pacified all but the most delusional fans who think we should be in the Big 12 by now.
I've been heavily critical of Teis in the past, but I wanted to give him a chance to show that he could learn from his mistakes and help lead Texas State into a bright future. Instead, he's showed that he doesn't "get it" and never will, and now he's brazenly lashing out at the very people who ultimately fund his salary in a very public forum.
If that behavior is ultimately considered acceptable at Texas State University, I'm done.
As in, I spend my money and my Saturdays elsewhere, and I will no longer write a single word about Bobcat football, positive or negative, on Underdog Dynasty until widespread changes are made. I'll happily write about other teams that actually have a vision for success like Houston, Memphis, or Temple, if need be. On the flip side, if necessary changes and good hires are made, I'll increase my donations and do my best to write about Bobcat football from the perspective of a clean slate.
But I'm not holding my breath that will happen, and I hold no illusions that the athletic department will care a single whit about my decision. As one writer and a low level donor, I'm not important to them. But to continuously treat this young fanbase as if they're a nuisance rather than a future investment is administrative malpractice.
If the university doesn't repair relations with the Bobcat community, then season ticket numbers and Bobcat Club donations will plummet, and Texas State football will sink into complete obscurity as talented and hard working student-athletes will play in front of a 1/3 full Bobcat Stadium.
And that will be exactly what Larry Teis and this administration deserve.