As comedian, actor and writer Steve Martin once said, “Let’s get small.”
Texas Wesleyan University has taken that as a mantra with a great marketing campaign that touts the small size of the school – and the teacher-student ratio.
“Smaller, smarter,“ it’s called, and it’s garnered some attention for its clever taglines such as “More than meets the size,” “Classes, not masses,” and the ever popular “Where Freshman 15 means class size.”
The campaigns, which for a while seemed to run during The Walking Dead zombie drama, have raised awareness – and earned some awards – for the east side university with about 3,400 students that was founded in 1890. And, hey, most of the students already have a common interest to talk about: zombies.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise in 2017 when Texas Wesleyan got back in the pigskin game after calling a timeout in 1941.
After all, doesn’t Fort Worth already have a college football team that frequently hosts ESPN’s College GameDay, commands some prime TV time and is usually competitive in its conference? It does, but Texas Wesleyan specializes in counter-programming and that’s what the school did with its football program. And they excel at it. Well, maybe not the actual football game on the field. The Rams have won three games, one of them a forfeit. But they offer a vastly different experience from the amphibian-based program just down the street. Smaller, smarter is not just a clever slogan.
A Ram football game is a bit like getting into your time-machine DeLorean and attending a football game in Cleburne in 1955. Home games are played at the Preston M. Geren-designed Farrington Field, which opened in 1939. It’s an architectural marvel and, with a construction cost of $400,000, puts those $60 million-plus high school stadiums to shame. No cracks that I could see.
I’ll cut the modern world some slack, however. Farrington Field has no elevator to its press box. You’ve got to be dedicated – or in good shape – to cover a game there.
Texas Wesleyan invited the media to attend the school’s first football homecoming since 1941. I’ll admit it was a bit of an exercise in nostalgia for me. Farrington Field was where I watched most of Paschal’s football games and other sporting events over the years. I wanted to see how the ol’ gal was holding up.
The Rams were taking on the Scotts of Lyon College, a school in Batesville, Arkansas, with 700 students, making Texas Wesleyan feel like Ohio State. Maybe their tagline is “Even smaller. Even smarter.”
There was a small tailgating scene on the east side of the stadium. Nothing as outrageous and over-the-top as an Ole Miss game – nothing, really, that would have seemed out of place when Farrington Field opened.
The game kicked off with the anthem and performance by a school choir. Then it was kickoff time and the game began with Wesleyan alum and Fort Worth attorney Geno Borchardt as the stadium announcer.
There was a cheer squad and a spirit group. The cheer squad did some routines that were pretty impressive. Nothing like the simple stuff I saw in my high school days.
While Farrington Field maintains its old school charm, the stadium was updated in 2010 with a video scoreboard and a sound system. Kudos to those who designed and installed the sound system. Even with a brisk wind on Saturday, Nov. 3, the sound was pretty clear.
Football – no matter how small or smart – makes concessions to the modern world with instant replays on the video board, occasional graphics, etc. At least there was no “kiss cam” or embarrassing proposals during the game. There was more advertising that there was when I watched the Paschal Panthers struggle to score. First downs were brought to you by Blue Mesa, Borchardt said in his 40ish patter. He then followed that with “Eat more tacos!” There were also various sponsors named during the game, but the crowd seemed to ignore them until the announcer mentioned Mama’s Pizza. That got the crowd to cheer. Some things are universal.
All in all, it was a fun day, a simple but enjoyable presentation. For a few hours on a Saturday, there were no political ads, no traffic jams, no possibility the Russians were going to hack the Farrington Field video board. About the closest things to politics was one guy wearing a Kaepernick jersey. It was really one of those rare 21st century events where the stress belonged to everyone else, not you. Oh, yeah, and the Rams won, 21-20. That was the cherry on top of the old-fashioned sundae.
Did you know the phrase “sis boom bah” originated in 1867 and is meant to imitate the sound of a sky rocket taking off?
Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.