Early next week, people from Texas Tech athletics and the Knights of Columbus Council 3008 are supposed to get together and talk about the future of Tech Knight, one of the traditional kickoff events that signals the start of another football season.
By then maybe, Tech will change course and solve a public-relations mess.
The Tech athletic department and the Red Raider Club decided this year to cease support for an event that’s been going on for 55 years now. Typically, special guests include a Tech all-American, a Tom Landry era Dallas Cowboy, Tech coaches and athletic department senior staff.
On Saturday, four Citibus loads of the Goin’ Band showed up, the cheerleaders, the pom squad, the Masked Rider, Raider Red. So did special guests Lee Roy Jordan and Rodney Allison. Tech President Duane Nellis got up and talked.
Tech sent no coaches, though, nor AD Kirby Hocutt or his staff.
That’s disappointing, considering many rank-and-file Red Raiders fans from more than one generation have looked forward to Tech Knight to start their football engines.
“We thought we had a good partnership in this thing,” Tech Knight chairman Jim Seideman said, “and then all of a sudden it went south and we don’t understand why, other than we just weren’t big enough to meet their needs, I guess. I don’t know.
“Hopefully, we can find out Tuesday. That’s where we’re at. I was surprised they told us they totally dropped us and told us we should go someplace else to take our money to.”
What a dangerous message to send. If you don’t donate millions, you’re disposable?
Tech spokesman Blayne Beal said it’s a matter of Tech getting more requests than it can accommodate and, in turn, “being good stewards with our resources” and giving all charitable organizations fair treatment.
“I would say we have not ended the Knights of Columbus event,” Beal said Wednesday. “We want to continue to work with them. We have to get to a level where we’re fair and consistent with every organization we work with, and we have expressed that to their leadership team.”
Knights of Columbus marketing chairman Michael Riojas told A-J Media’s Sarah Rafique that the KOC has donated $250,000 in endowed scholarships, mostly to help Tech athletes done with their eligibility finish school. Some folks read that, divided $250,000 by 55, came up with about $4,500 and wondered why Tech hadn’t broken off the relationship sooner.
Let’s look a little deeper into the event’s history, though.
Kickoff night was a small members-only and invited-guests event for half or more of its existence. When the KOC opened it up to the public, those Cowboys and Tech greats brought name value, attendance grew and most of the quarter million was raised in the last 22 years.
“What we give to the endowed scholarships is probably on the average of $16,000 a year,” Seideman said, “and then we also give a thousand dollars to the band and to the cheers.”
Seideman acknowledged that, for years, one of the perks of being Tech Knight chairman has been a game-day parking pass and season tickets, a thank-you bestowed by the late, beloved Tech administrator Jess Stiles “back when they had 20,000-something people in the stadium.” That perk remains in place. Too, the athletic department provides equipment to be auctioned on Tech Knight.
Take that into account and the cost to participate might be a wash or worse, dollars-wise, for the Red Raider Club.
Still, an organization’s 55 years of loyalty ought to count for something.
Tradition’s been taking quite a hit, though, if you haven’t been counting. The Red Raider Club’s Thursday luncheon with the coach — admittedly, an anachronism these days — went out with Spike Dykes’ retirement. Tommy Tuberville stopped giving all sorts of time-honored player awards named for coaches such as Pete Cawthon and Dell Morgan and players such as Donny Anderson and E.J. Holub. The horse doesn’t circle the field anymore, and the double-T scoreboard’s days numbered.
The Red Raiders’ sporting the double-T on their helmet and wearing scarlet jerseys is optional.
And now Tech’s rethinking whether to keep doing this longtime shindig with fans.
Without question, demands on coaches’ time are high. I get that. Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t need to carry this event solo on his shoulders. If he can’t go, the Red Raiders have a staff full of young, popular assistants, about half of whom grew up around here. Send two or three to shake hands and talk to the folks for a couple of hours.
If the traditional time slot — the Saturday before the opener — looks more daunting, move it to the end of July.
But do something.
For a lot of Red Raider fans, the season starts with Tech Knight.
They should save it in some form.
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