Our investigation into the current state of affairs with Texas State Bobcats athletics was enlightening for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many passionate and thoughtful Bobcats are frustrated and even fed up with the athletic department and its leadership.
Luckily for Texas State athletics officials, none of the problems highlighted this week are gaping wounds that can't be healed. There's still time to change course for the better, and there are plenty of positive things that can be done.
Change the message
One of our athletic department sources suggested that a change in approach would do Texas State a world of good:
This is PR 101: if you want to control the message, you have to provide the content of that message. If our SID/Marketing department would look at itself as a content creator instead of a media controller, they'll probably like the results.
Instead of trying to control the message, Texas State would be wise to roll out the red carpet for every media outlet they can and focus their efforts closely on selling the program to anyone willing to listen every chance they get. Not only would it help with getting people involved, but it might help rid us longtime fans of the gnawing inferiority complex that has implanted itself into the soul of almost every diehard Bobcat at some point.
There are plenty of things to get excited about and reasons to love Texas State--some of which the athletic department has to an extent tried to sell, in fairness, but many of these talking points need to be hammered over and over again.
- A gorgeous lake and river running through a gorgeous and increasingly diverse campus. Tubing national champs every year.
- A vibrant college town atmosphere and nightlife in San Marcos, which objectively has a strong case for one of the best towns in the Sun Belt. Then there's Austin, San Antonio and the hill country nearby if you want something else to do.
- A coaching staff that's improving their wins totals every year in FBS and has done more with less.
- Rapid growth that gives this school the potential to become a massive player in Texas collegiate athletics if managed correctly
- Multiple national and conference titles in its history.
- A loaded offense. Exciting talent coming in at defensive end and safety. More depth in the program than ever.
- The best NFL draft/UDFA class in the Sun Belt in 2015
- An excellent recruiting base that they've recently been taking good advantage of.
- A fantastic upgraded stadium and excellent football facilities
- Players like Brian Guendling that represent the university well and do awesome things to put smiles on peoples' faces.
There's plenty more that I'm sure I've left off.
If Texas State ceaselessly markets all of these things and more to Bobcat fans in a professional and coherent manner, more and more people will start coming around. If you keep selling people on the potential of this school rather than cautioning about its limits, they'll want to buy in.
There are questions on defense for next season, but there's an opportunity to market Texas State as an insurgent dark horse that could finally take the Sun Belt by storm in 2015. In the longer term, Texas State's desired ascendancy into college football prominence from the humblest of beginnings needs to be hammered upon and treated as an irresistible inevitability in promotional materials.
Become the bullies on the block
In other words, the Bobcat brand could use some swagger. The best thing the athletic department could do for this fanbase's self confidence is to make a bold statement that says something to the effect of "We're here. We're building a monster. And we're going to take what's rightfully ours (and step on some fools in the process)."
Louisiana and Georgia Southern embraced being the bad boys and the bullies of the Sun Belt, and Texas State should look to do the same. There's nothing wrong with doing so as long as the players stay out of trouble off the field, and Texas State's had a solid track record to that effect over the last decade.
But most of all, Texas State needs a fan culture with some self esteem. For too long, too many of us been ashamed or apologetic of what the school is and once was.
We've accepted excuses about being on a media island when there were and are perfectly good market segments available for the taking (hello, San Antonio). The school has treated the Southwest Texas name and over 100 years of history as if it were the plague because of the dreaded "party school" label and because previous athletic department leadership didn't take sports seriously for 20 years. The newer, more competent athletic department has still consistently complained about the fans and made excuses for a lack of competitive success and uninspiring marketing. Many fans also make excuses and collapse into the "same old SWT/Texas State" (a)pathetic malaise whenever another faceplant happens on a big stage.
It's time for all of that to stop. It's time to relentlessly tell the world about our story, our potential, and then take their damn lunch money.
Sell Beer at Games
If Texas, the #1 party school in America, can sell beer at games, so can the former #1 party school in America. It'll likely cut down on binging outside of the stadium at tailgates, not to mention it will undoubtedly pique the interest of otherwise uninterested alumni and townies. And it's a quick and easy way to market the program, make money, and boost a gameday atmosphere that needs all the help it can get.
Embrace the fans and the community
Aside from a new emphasis on marketing, the customer base--the fans--need to be treated with more respect. Regardless of whether they donate $100 or $100 million, or voice their concerns privately or on the internet, every fan needs to be considered an asset who can help make Texas State better.
If Larry Teis prominently started banging down every media outlet's door to enthusiastically sell the accomplishments and future of Bobcat football and perhaps spent some time at a tailgate interacting with and listening to those young alumni that are the future of Texas State's donor base, he'd earn a lot more goodwill (and maybe donations) than he previously has. Being proactive and inclusive doesn't cost anything, except perhaps a few hours of sleep every once in a while.
Town/gown relations have long been strained, and the athletic department needs to make the city of San Marcos even more of a priority. Bringing in students from San Marcos CISD for games is a start, but there needs to be a widespread promotional effort around town to either sell heavily discounted tickets for non-marquee games or straight up give them away.
Some Bobcats mocked UTSA for doing exactly that, but let's be honest--Texas State is hardly in a position to act like it's too good to try the idea. Getting first time fans to come to a few games on discounted tickets then aggressively marketing future games and season tickets to them would be an investment in the future that would likely help boost fan relations and possibly attendance. Recent faculty and staff discounts on season tickets are a nice start.
It's on us
The Bobcat fanbase badly needs the athletic department to help move Texas State forward at a much quicker pace, but it's ultimately up to us Bobcats to get involved and tell our leadership what it is we want and need.
If you're disgusted or bored by what you see out of the athletic department and you're tempted to just give up--don't. Teis and his athletic department haven't responded constructively to apathy in the past, and likely won't change their practices in a vacuum. Make your voices heard instead.
If enough of us step up to demand higher expectations and strong leadership, they will be forced to listen to everyone from the Fields family on down to John Q. Townie who's attending his first ever Texas State game. If that happens, and athletics starts improving at the rate we expected during the Drive to FBS, everything else will start falling into place. Perhaps Texas State will even have some control of the narrative in the next round of conference realignment.
But in the meantime, let's all do our part to help Texas State take a giant step forward. It's time to do some ass-kicking.
Eat 'Em Up.