From signs to shirts, the new Texas State of mind is taking hold in San Marcos(08/12/2003)
By Ricardo Gándara
SAN MARCOS — Texas State. Get used to it.
The century-old school known as Southwest Texas State University becomes Texas State University-San Marcos on Sept. 1. School officials, however, hope the shortened name with more zing — Texas State — catches on.
Don’t expect a marketing blitz to holler out Texas State. Private money is being used to cover the cost — an estimated $350,000 from an anonymous alumnus — for physical changes like repainting directional signs and the water tower and putting the new logo on 269 university vehicles. The school administration’s in-house designers created the new words and symbols going on student wear and athletic equipment, but there’s no money for a special advertising campaign.
“ We’re in no hurry to make all the physical changes,” says T. Cay Rowe, spokeswoman for the university. “Because of the economy, we’re sensitive to budget issues.” Still, getting the new T-shirts and gimme caps on store shelves before classes begin Aug. 27 is going down to the wire. Redesigned logos for diplomas and university correspondence are in place for the official Sept. 1 changeover. Soon, football and basketball facilities will get paint jobs with the new name.
New highway signs — at the expense of the Texas Department of Transportation — go up after Sept. 1.
This is the school’s sixth name change since it opened its doors as Southwest Texas State Normal School on Sept. 9, 1903. For at least 15 years, people have talked about changing the name to get away from the perception that it was a small regional school.
Athletics Director Greg LaFleur expects the school’s image to change immediately. “Texas State more accurately reflects the size of the school. We’ll have close to 26,000 students in the fall. There is no double-directional school (that previous South and West problem) in the country with that kind of enrollment. We will no longer be perceived as a small school,” he says.
The football team, which opens its season at the University of New Mexico on Aug. 30, will use the new name and logo on uniforms, as will the women’s volleyball and soccer teams, which also have away games that weekend.
The Bobcats’ head football coach, Manny Matsakis, another new name on campus, says a meaner-looking maroon bobcat on a metallic gold helmet will give the team a fresh start. “There’s been one winning season here in the last 10 years with us wearing a white helmet with a maroon SWT. We wanted something radical, more recognizable and because football is a physical game, we wanted a ferocious bobcat,” he says.
Matsakis says the new name will help shake the perception that SWT is in South Texas. “When we were recruiting kids in Dallas and Houston, you don’t know how many times they told us they thought we were located near Laredo. The new name piqued their interest,” he says.
Tony Brubaker, assistant athletic director who is also the voice of Bobcat football on radio, knows he will call the school by the old name. “No matter how hard I prepare and practice, I know I’ll say Southwest Texas. When we’re in Albuquerque for the first game, I plan to have placards with a big point size all over the press booth but I know I’ll still slip,” he says.
Suzanne Fox, the women’s basketball coach, is in the thick of recruiting. “It’s challenging,” she says. “We’re watching players in summer tournaments, so when we first contact them we’re Southwest Texas. We also have to tell them that any mail they get from us after Sept. 1, it will be from Texas State. Communication will be so important as we market ourselves in athletics and academics.”
Although university phone operators can’t proudly answer “Texas State” until Sept. 1 (when, by legislative decree, the new name takes effect), the impact of the changeover is evident on campus.
Christie Kangas’ staff in the admissions office is going in two directions this summer. It’s now working to bring in the fall class under the name Southwest Texas, since classes begin a few days before the official changeover. The office is also changing recruiting material for the fall class of 2004 that will bear the new name. “We’re editing admissions letters, recruiting brochures and the viewbook to read Texas State. We have to contact organizations like the College Board to list us correctly in their publications. We’ve got voice mail and new e-mail addresses to worry about. There’s a lot to do,” she says.
All departments have been told to use up current SWT letterhead, envelopes and business cards before new stationery bearing Texas State can be ordered. Some departments have up to a two months’ supply of old stationery.
The university’s Web master, Fazia Rizvi, says the school’s new Web domain, www.txstate.edu, will work Sept. 1. The old URL, www.txstate.edu, will also work for six more months. “It’s not too difficult but there’s a lot of work,” she says. “Lots of graphic designers and programmers are involved. It gives us a chance to spiff things up a bit,” she says.
This week, the bookstore on campus will begin selling $10 T-shirts, $20 caps, $35 polo shirts and $4 decals with the new name.
The Colloquium Bookstore off campus expects to get its gear by Sept. 1. “Right now, there’s no demand on items with the new name. The rush is on Southwest Texas State stuff. It’s nostalgic for the alums,” says Chris Secrest, store manager, who hopes to sell old inventory along with new items as long as the university allows him. “We certainly don’t have to have a clearance sale on any of the SWT stuff.”
The change is a boon for B.J. Hageman, a third-generation SWT grad and owner of BJ’s Special-Tees, who is printing at least 10,000 new T-shirts for retail outlets. “Goodness gracious, half of them are done. Business is starting off with a bang. I’m a small business so I’m just interested in putting out a quality product at reasonable price,” he says. But Kati Cooper, a senior studying hospital administration, says the name change will hit her pocketbook. “I’ll have to buy a new decal, shorts and a T-shirt just to be up-to-date,” she says.
The name change has been a long time coming. In 2001, e-mails in favor of a new name circulated throughout campus. Jerome Supple, the school’s popular president at the time, took a three-month research leave and expected that talk of a new name would die down when he returned. Instead, he was greeted by a group of deans enthusiastic to propose a name change. The regents, however, did not support the name change at the time.
In February, student government leaders picked up the initiative again. When they went to Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, to ask him about a bill that affected student fees, he asked about the name change and told the students that if the Student Senate favored a name change, he’d introduce the bill in the 2003 Legislature. Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law in mid-June.
The name change is an issue of prestige. University President Denise Trauth wants people to think “major university” when they hear Texas State. “While a name can’t cause one to be an excellent university, it can reflect the substance already there. We have a large enrollment; we’re broad in terms of scope. We’ve just started our sixth doctoral program. We have over 100,000 alums. We’re big,” she says.
Some students have bought into the thinking. “I like it,” says graduate student Cristi Cuellar. “Texas State puts us into the classification of UT (University of Texas).”
Texas State will be more recognizable, says Dustin Claghorn, a senior. “Right now if you go anywhere in the U.S. and tell people you go to SWT, they’ll say, ‘SWT. What’s that?’ Texas State sounds bolder.”