Tag Archives: Texas Tech University

Panhandle no longer is a Texas ‘step-child’

There once was a Texas Panhandle state representative who semi-seriously thought the Panhandle should separate itself from the rest of the state because, he groused, state government ignores the region.

That state rep was David Swinford, a Dumas Republican first elected to office in 1990. I asked him about that notion when I first met him in 1995 and he didn’t exactly deny it.

Well, Swinford has retired from the Legislature. And to its credit, the legislative body has restored faith in many in the Panhandle. How? By appropriating enough money — $17 million — to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

This is great news for the region. A lot of folks are taking credit for ensuring the Legislature made this event a reality.

The Texas Tech University System is going to build the vet school, the second one in Texas. The first vet school is run by the Texas A&M University System. Aggieland opposed Tech’s initiative. Tech wasn’t going to be denied. It lined up plenty of political backing in the Panhandle and the South Plains.

Amarillo Matters, a political action committee formed a couple of years ago, is one organization that is taking credit for pushing the Legislature to act. Amarillo Matters said this on its website:

“Not only does the budget include startup funding for the vet school, but it also includes a directive for Texas Tech to move forward developing the school,” Amarillo Matters President Jason Herrick said. “This is great news for Amarillo, the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, and our state as a whole.” The school will help meet the growing need for large animal and rural veterinarians across the state. It will also increase the opportunities for Texas students to further their education without leaving the state.

“Legislative approval of the Texas Tech veterinary school is a watershed event for West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, and all of Texas,” former Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan said. “This culminates years of hard work by literally hundreds of individuals who recognized the unmet demand for rural and large animal veterinarians throughout our state,” Duncan added.

Read the rest of Amarillo Matters’ post here.

Here’s my essential point: State government has not ignored the Panhandle. Yet one hears the occasional gripe from those who think it still does. Let’s lose the attitude, my former Panhandle neighbors. The Panhandle has plenty of legislative clout and it used it effectively for the benefit of the delegation’s constituents.

I also doubt that my friend David Swinford is among the soreheads.

Vet school set to become a reality for the Panhandle

I want to offer some hand claps to Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle for a signature they have obtained from Gov. Greg Abbott.

The governor has signed legislation that grants state money to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. It will be the second such institution in Texas. It will be operated by Texas Tech University and it will be located wholly in Amarillo, which lobbied furiously for the funds to build this much-needed project.

I had the pleasure of visiting with former Texas Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan not long before he got the bum’s rush by the Tech board of regents. Duncan came to Amarillo to make the case for the vet school and to tell the community that the state needed the second such program. Texas A&M University operates the long-standing school of veterinary medicine and had resisted Tech’s efforts to gain legislative approval for the new school.

This is a big deal, man! I am delighted that the region’s legislative delegation — state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Reps. John Smithee and Four Price, all Amarillo Republicans — flexed its collective muscle to ensure this legislative victory.

It also is heartening that Texas Tech, despite Duncan’s ouster as chancellor, managed to maintain its own momentum with a new chancellor, Tedd Mitchell, at the helm.

The Amarillo campus will enable Panhandle veterinary students to stay closer to home to get their education. One can hope, too, that they will remain at home to pursue their careers as doctors of veterinary medicine.

I had my share of anxious moments while living in the Panhandle and even after moving away. But then Amarillo’s economic development gurus lined up behind the project; so did the City Council; civic and business leaders ponied up serious money to help lighten the public burden.

I understand the vet school will open for class in a couple of years. Students will receive a first-class education that will pave the way for first-class careers.

It is nice to see the Texas Panhandle, which occasionally gets the short shrift from those in power way down yonder in Austin, score a major victory.

They’re yelling themselves hoarse in West Texas

Amarillo is only 120 miles or so north of Lubbock in West Texas.

Both cities are full of happy basketball fans tonight. Indeed, as my wife and I are parked in our RV in far west Amarillo, I am wondering if I can hear the shouts from sports bars all over the city.

Indeed, I might have to dial in my ears to hear the shouts from down yonder in Lubbock, where Texas Tech University sits.

The Red Raiders have earned a shot at the men’s college basketball title by defeating Michigan State University tonight. Now they’ll go after the NCAA men’s title Monday night against the University of Virginia.

I watched every minute of the game. I am not a Tech grad. I don’t even follow college basketball all that closely. But both my wife and I have many Tech grad-friends we met during our many years in Amarillo. I am happy for them all.

However, you can count me as one happy former West Texan who will cheer loudly for the Red Raiders to bring home the hardware.

How ’bout them Red Raiders?

I did not attend Texas Tech University. I have no particular allegiance to the Lubbock-based school.

I lived in West Texas for 23 years. I worked as a journalist at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 of those years. I got to know three Texas Tech University chancellors along the way — David Smith, Kent Hance and Bob Duncan. I watched the growth of the university’s School of Pharmacy in Amarillo and I’ve been cheering on Tech’s effort to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo as well.

And I damn sure made plenty of acquaintances with Tech alumni. Some of them are good friends.

So I want to share in their joy today as the Red Raiders celebrate their appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. They will be one of four teams to get through a tournament that began with 64 teams. Tech knocked off one of the tournament’s four No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga, to get to the finals.

I won’t suggest that just “being in the Final Four” is enough. I want the Red Raiders to bring the glory home to Lubbock. I am sure my friends from Texas Tech — those who still wear the red and black with great pride — will feel the love that is coming to them from throughout the vast state of Texas.

I hope this non-Tech grad is allowed to say it, but . . .

Guns up!

***

I want to share this ditty from my friend Jon Mark Beilue, a dedicated Tech grad. He posted this today on Facebook:

It’s time for this Red Raider alum to break out the good stuff — $7.99 per bottle on the clearance rack at Market Street — after this one. Going back to my college days in the late 1970s/early 1980s, I watched some bad basketball, good basketball and a whole lot in between. But nothing like this. I was breathing through a paper bag. This is an out-of-body experience. Surreal.

Do ya think?

Let there be a second school of veterinary medicine

Texas Tech University’s effort to build a school of veterinary medicine in the Panhandle is moving along.

The university is getting plenty of help from Amarillo government and civic organizations, from private citizens. The city and its economic development arm have pledged $69 million to build the school near the existing Tech medical school campus.

I want the school to be built. Tech sees a need for large-animal veterinary medicine care for the Texas Panhandle and wants to build the vet school in the community that can best serve the region’s agriculture community.

I wrote about this project in an installment posted on KETR-FM, the public radio station based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. I am glad that KETR saw fit to run it, given that I chide the A&M System for what I consider to be its silly resistance to the Texas Tech project.

It’s how I feel. I am not alone. A lot of folks in the Panhandle believe as I do, that Texas is a big enough state to be home to two university-based schools of veterinary medicine.

I want to encourage you to read my post on KETR-FM’s web site. You can read it here.

I just feel like sharing it on my blog, too. Share it if you wish.

Amarillo still ‘Matters’ to this group

A political action group formed two years ago to help elect a slate of candidates to the Amarillo City Council is back at it.

Amarillo Matters, which comprises some well-funded, well-known and successful business and civic leaders, is working to re-elect the council members it helped elect in 2017. They’re all running for re-election this year.

What strikes me as strange — even from my now-distant vantage point — is that Amarillo Matters is being demonized by challengers to the incumbents. For what remains a mystery to me.

I’ve seen the Amarillo Matters website, read its profile, looked at its mission statement. It says it works to develop “positive opportunities” for the city. It vows to be free of conflicts of interest. Amarillo Matters says it believes in “limited government.”

There’s more to the website explaining this group. You can see it here.

It’s a high-minded group with noble goals, ambitions and causes.

The way I view the city now that I no longer live there is that Amarillo has continued nicely on its upward trajectory during the past two years. Downtown continues its revival; the city streets are under significant repair and renovation; the state is tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27, but that, too, shall pass; Amarillo economic development gurus have gone all in — with significant amounts of public money — on Texas Tech’s plans to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

I have to ask: Is this all bad? Is this a reason to toss aside the city’s leadership?

It’s not that everything is peachy in Amarillo. Sure, there are problems. What American city doesn’t have them? The city needs to devote more money and attention to long-neglected neighborhoods, but I hear that the city is aiming to do precisely that.

I keep hearing whispers about feather-bedding, favoritism and assorted accusations of malfeasance. So help me it sounds like sour grapes from those who aren’t deriving some sort of direct financial benefit from all the good that is occurring in the city.

This economic system of ours means that individuals benefit as well as the community at large. I see Amarillo Matters as the positive influence it purports to be. Thus, I do not grasp the basis for the negativity coming from those who seek further “change” in the direction the city has taken.

From my perspective, the city is doing just fine.

Keep our eyes on Texas Tech vet school progress

I have spoken already on this blog about some of the damage that can be done to West Texans who depend on their state senator to look after projects that provide direct benefit to their part of the state.

I want to discuss briefly one specific project: the Texas Tech University System’s plan to build a school of veterinary medicine at its medical school campus in Amarillo.

Why mention it? Because a veteran legislator, Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, has been yanked out of the chairman’s seat on the Higher Education Committee. Seliger lost the chairmanship he has occupied for several legislative sessions.

The loss of that seat could cost the Panhandle dearly. My sincere and adamant hope is that it does not endanger the veterinary medicine school that Tech wants to build in Amarillo.

The Tech Board of Regents has signed on. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has committed tens of millions of dollars to it. The Panhandle community supports the vet school, which would be the second such college in Texas; the only other vet school is run by Texas A&M University, which quite naturally has been pushing back against Tech’s plans to build the school.

The school of veterinary medicine will provide a direct boost to Amarillo and the Panhandle. Tech has established a need for such a school, which could cater to large-animal veterinary care in a region known for its livestock.

Does the Seliger removal from the Higher Ed chairmanship put the vet school in dire peril? It must not! However, there is the possibility that the Panhandle’s lack of a voice on the Higher Ed panel could work against the forward momentum that is building for the completion of the project.

Lt. Gov. Patrick has done some damage to the Panhandle with his apparent vendetta against the region’s senior state senator. Let us all keep our eyes and ears open to the legislative maneuvering as it involves the Texas Tech school of veterinary medicine.

Kliff Kingsbury channels Forrest Gump

I want to offer a salute and a “well done” to my friend Jon Mark Beilue for a fascinating commentary on a former Texas Tech University head football coach who has redefined how one can land on his feet.

Beilue calls Kliff Kingsbury the “real life version of Forrest Gump.” Beilue knows of which he speaks. He’s a Tech grad, a longtime West Texas journalist (including several years as sports editor of the Amarillo Globe-News). The man knows his business.

Kingsbury has managed to parlay a mediocre college coaching career into a head coaching gig with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Beilue noted this: Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave. 

That brings me to the point of this blog item. I do not understand a lot of things, and one of them is how athletic coaches can fail to do their job and still get big-time money after they get fired for non-performance at their jobs.

As Beilue points out, Kingsbury took a header as Tech coach. He didn’t win half of the games he coached. Yet he still gets $2 million for departing a job from which he was fired. He now will get another well-paying gig coaching a team of multimillionaire athletes.

Oh, boy.

***

Here’s Beilue’s essay, posted on Facebook:

Kliff Kingsbury is the real-life version of Forrest Gump. Both are likable guys that have seen timing and great fortune shine on them in their storybook life. Don’t believe me?

Start with:

1. After his record-setting career as a Texas Tech QB, Kliff didn’t really have the skill set for the NFL. He was drafted in 2003 by the New England Patriots in the sixth round. He hurt his arm, and was put on injured reserve. He was ineligible to play, but in his one year, he still got a Super Bowl ring.

2. After bouncing around the NFL briefly and in NFL Europe, he decides to go into coaching. He hooks up with Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston as quality control assistant. The next year, he’s the QB coach and offensive coordinator just in time when talented QB Case Keenum is a senior.

3. Sumlin goes to A&M and takes Kliff with him in 2012. Who’s there but Johnny Manziel, a generational college QB. Kliff I’m sure refined some of Johnny Football’s play, but Manziel basically ran around like his hair was on fire, and made plays with his legs or threw it up and let WR Mike Evans make a play. Manziel, in Kliff’s only year there, wins the Heisman.

4. Tech is looking to unite a fan base fractured by the firing of Mike Leach and the rocky tenure of Tommy Tuberville, who abruptly left. They go to favorite son Kliff, and give him the keys to the convertible, head coach of your alma mater at age 33 with a whopping THREE YEARS of coaching experience.

5. In his first year in 2013, with the previous staff’s recruits, Kliff goes 7-0, and then loses the next five. In the Holiday Bowl, Tech beats a disinterested Arizona State. Based off that, Tech AD Kirby Hocutt gives Kliff a lucrative contract extension. His $3.7 million salary is 30th highest in the country and has a huge buyout.

6. Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave.

7. Six weeks later, he signs a four-year contract to be a head coach in the NFL.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Texas Tech coach is out . . . despite all the love

Kliff Kingsbury has been fired as head football coach at Texas Tech University.

He was a fan favorite. Kingsbury played quarterback at Tech. He was reportedly destined to be the Red Raiders’ head coach.

Tech’s athletic director heaped praise on him for his character and for being a great role model for his players. Tech’s president said much the same thing and thanked Kingsbury all he did to advance the school’s football program.

Give me a break, will ya?

Neither of them said a word publicly about the reason Kingsbury was canned: He didn’t win enough football games. He had a losing record as a head coach.

All that happy talk was chock full of platitudes.

I feel badly for Kingsbury. I just wish his bosses wouldn’t speak with so many clichés that don’t mean a single thing.

First-class wordsmith gets back in the game

I recently lamented the retirement of a man who has lent his wonderful written “voice” to the Texas Panhandle.

Jon Mark Beilue worked for the Amarillo Globe-News for 37 years before retiring in July from his post as a columnist. I have good news for readers of this blog: Beilue is getting back in the game, this time as a columnist for West Texas A&M University.

I want to share this bit of good news because I have used this blog to bemoan the gutting of the Globe-News — first by Morris Communications and then by the company that purchased the G-N a year ago from Morris, GateHouse Media.

WT announced Beilue’s new writing gig in a press release, which stated in part: “We are excited to welcome Jon Mark to the WTAMU family and to share his many talents with the people of the Panhandle,” Dr. Walter Wendler, University president, said. “West Texas A&M University has many interesting stories to tell, and there is no doubt that Jon Mark will tell them well.”

Read the entire WT statement here.

WT plans to distribute Beilue’s columns weekly to area newspapers. If the folks who run the Globe-News have a brain in their heads, they will make sure this fine journalist’s words are published on the pages of a newspaper in dire need of institutional knowledge of the community.

Beilue provides it. He lived his entire life in the Texas Panhandle, absent his four years as a student at Texas Tech University down the road a bit in Lubbock.

And as WT noted in its release: His talent with words is well known across the region and has been recognized at both the state and national levels as far back as the 1980s until his retirement in 2018.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Jon Mark Beilue is a community treasure. I am delighted to know that WT has decided to put him back on display.

Well done.