By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Texas State’s athletic department received a huge boost Friday in support of the university’s initiative to enter big-time college football.
The university announced Friday that Texas State alumni Jerry and Linda Fields have donated $100,000 for season tickets, which will be donated for free to recent university alumni. The donation, which is the largest single contribution towards season tickets in Texas State athletic history, moves the university substantially closer to its attendance and season ticket goals for the 2008 season.
The university is working towards a move from Football Championship Series football (FCS, formerly Division I-AA) to Football Bowl Series football (FBS, formerly Division I-A) in 2012. The university believes the move would result in a huge prestige upgrade, in addition to creating more interest in its athletic endeavors.
Among Texas State’s goals for a successful FBS application are average football attendance of 15,000 per game and 2,500 season tickets per year. The Fields’ donation stands to increase Texas State’s average game attendance by about ten percent.
The sales prices for adult season football tickets at Texas State are $72 for general admission and $90 for reserved seating. At those prices, the Fields donation would fund 1,111 reserved season tickets or 1,388 general admission season tickets. Last year, Texas State football attendance averaged 11,408 for six dates.
According to Texas State’s website for the FBS drive, the school’s football season ticket sale now is up to 1,657, just 843 short of its goal to reach 2,500.
“This is a major step forward toward our goal,” Texas State Athletics Director Larry Teis said. “We are very thankful for the Fieldses stepping up and hope others will do the same.”
Texas State alumni who graduated during the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years will be able to receive two complimentary 2008 Texas State football season tickets in either general admission or reserved seating courtesy of the Fields and their donation. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
With the promotion, young alumni who attend the football games will also automatically have an opportunity to win a vacation for six courtesy of the Fieldses. Details of the promotion will be released in the next few weeks.
“We really wanted to encourage young alumni to get involved with The Drive campaign and help take our football program to the FBS level,” Teis said. “This is a great way to thank the students who supported us during the 2005 season (when Texas State reached the Division I-AA semifinals) and who more recently voted to increase student fees for our athletics budget.”
Jerry and Linda Fields both graduated from Texas State, where Linda was a Strutter. They also chair the university-wide Pride in Action Campaign. Jerry founded JD Fields & Company, Inc., a steel company based in Houston. For more information on JD Fields & Company, visit jdfields.com.
“As chairs of the Pride in Action Campaign, we think it is important to step up early and support The Drive,” Jerry Fields said. “Athletics will play a major role in the campaign, and we wanted to make a statement early. Linda and I are proud to support Texas State University.”
Said University President Denise Trauth, “Jerry and Linda Fields help Texas State University in so many different ways. We are delighted that this latest gift will help our newest alumni stay connected to their alma mater and we look forward to seeing these recent graduates in Bobcat Stadium this fall.”
Texas State has grown quickly in recent years to more than 28,000 students, making it the seventh largest university in Texas and the 63rd largest public university in the country. Of the 62 larger universities, all but 14 play FBS football. Of those 14, 11 don’t even play football, while two others (California State-Sacramento and California-Davis) play FCS and one (Wayne State) plays NCAA Division III.
Despite that growth, along with the rapid addition of Ph.D. programs and a name change four years ago from Southwest Texas State to Texas State University-San Marcos, the university continues to fight against anonymity. Meanwhile, Texas State’s football status keeps it from joining other large Texas universities in conference alignments that go well beyond athletics.
Last November, a university task force recommended that steps be taken to move the university into FBS football. The university hopes to complete the steps by Aug. 9, 2011, when the NCAA is scheduled to lift a four-year moratorium on member institutions changing classification.
A flurry of activity has followed. In February, Texas State students voted to double their fees for the athletic department to $10 million annually by 2012-13. If all $5 million of the increase goes to football, then the football program can operate with $7 million, which is about par for a football program in Conference-USA, which is the type of conference to which Texas State aspires. Among the Conference-USA members are the University of Houston, Rice University and Southern Methodist University, all in Texas.
For the reporting year ending last Aug. 31, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Texas State football generated a mere $639,253 after expenditures of $2,346,453.
Also in February, San Antonio businessman Darren Casey, another alumnus, made a $1 million contribution to the athletic department. Casey’s contribution is being used to fund the first phase of a new baseball/softball complex, as upgraded athletic facilities are another key to a successful FBS application. Texas State named its athletic administration building after Casey in April.
Texas State opens the 2008 regular season at home against Angelo State on Saturday, Aug. 30, at 6 p.m.