What’s going on with my alma mater and its sports program?
Being a proud 1990 graduate of Lamar University, I sometimes sit wondering what is happening in the world to a once proud global program.
I was blessed to grow up with the mighty Lamar basketball program, led by the late greats Billy Tubbs and Pat Foster.
I remember watching the hoop teams and venues grow.
I’ve seen matches at the old McDonald’s Gym on its ‘golden day’, when Mike Oliver was ripping long-range bombs and Clarence ‘Pick’ Kea was shoving his way inside in front of a packed house.
The NCAA tournament came calling, and Tubbs and Co. made the Sweet 16 twice.
The Cardinals also found their way into the Big Dance under Foster’s reign, and the Cardinals moved past McDonald’s Gym and moved to the Beaumont Civic Center, again playing to a full house.
Then the Mountain Center caught on and the program flourished a bit longer. Then powers that Lamar is thought to be an annual powerhouse entering the former Sun Belt basketball conference, which made football
in an independent program, which ultimately led to the football program not receiving any support. It was canceled until it restarted in 2010.
These days, Lamar Athletics seems to be a “shell of itself.”
The basketball program just went 2-27, 0-18 in a newly formed Western Athletic Conference that the Cardinals really don’t belong in. Not a single win against an NCAA Division I team and finished 357th out of 358 teams nationwide on a computer model.
That’s not Lamar Hoops’ raison d’etre. I wonder what hoop legends BB Davis and Terry Long think of “Big Red” these days.
Lamar’s athletic department appears to be in complete disarray. Just last week, sporting director Marco Born resigned from his post after already being on leave.
When Born arrived, he carried out a complete overhaul of LU Athletics and, of course, led the transition to the West Athletic Conference.
I’ve been to Lamar events; attendance is so low. It was shrinking before the Cardinals left Southland and now they are playing foes WAC.
I’ve seen bigger crowds at Orange County basketball games than at Cardinals games.
First, you have to rebuild the product, but what worries me is if anyone would go to the games anyway.
Gone are the old enemies of the Southland Conference McNeese State, Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Louisiana. Sure, SFA and Sam Houston have joined the WAC, but who wants to buy a ticket to watch the Cardinals take on California Baptist, Grand Canyon, Dixie State, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Tarleton State.
By the way, the Cardinals lost to Tarleton this season. Remember when Tarleton was a “cupcake” on Billy Tubbs’ program and the Cardinals broke 100 and everyone got free chicken at Popeyes for it?
It doesn’t seem that far off that the football program has reached the playoffs. They went 3-13 under Blane Morgan, who replaced Mike Schultz, who led them to the playoffs. The Cardinals football team was 0-7 in conference in the fall.
The Lady Cardinals softball program went 8-43 last season and is a dismal 4-17 this season.
Cardinals baseball was down but made a small comeback, going 25-23 last year. They are 11-6 this season and had a nice SFA sweep last weekend to start conference play.
Lamar’s track and cross country programs remain strong, but the Cardinals need to start competing better in the sports that sell the tickets.
The Cardinals have had six coaching changes under Born, who recently signed Alvin Brooks to lead men’s basketball. Just a year after Lamar made it to the FCS National Playoffs, Born fired Schultz and replaced him with Morgan.
Growing up in Southeast Texas, I know Lamar Athletics is a “hard sell.” Lamar fans have been fickle over the years unless the Cardinals win.
Lamar just doesn’t have the college atmosphere and big traditions like McNeese, SFA and Sam Houston. Lamar’s collective student body is much older than the above schools and more suburban school-like compared to their former SLC rivals.
Lamar’s entire university system needs to step up and get athletics going again, so more people in the area want to see their product.
The school is looking for a new DA nationwide and I hope it will be a great choice.
Otherwise, things could continue to be “WAC-ky” for many alumni who have supported Big Red for so long. How much longer can they do it?