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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) blocks Arkansas Razorbacks guard Tramon Mark (12) during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)
Free falling
February 20, 2024
Jace LaViolette (17) an Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle celebrating a home run during Texas A&Ms game against UIW on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
GALLERY: Baseball vs. UIW
February 20, 2024
Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) catches a pop fly during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024 at Blue Bell Park. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Four for four
February 20, 2024
Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) blocks Arkansas Razorbacks guard Tramon Mark (12) during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)
Free falling
February 20, 2024
Jace LaViolette (17) an Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle celebrating a home run during Texas A&Ms game against UIW on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
GALLERY: Baseball vs. UIW
February 20, 2024
Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) catches a pop fly during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024 at Blue Bell Park. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Four for four
February 20, 2024

Aggies strive to be the best

The Center for Sport Management Research and Education welcomed 12th Man Foundation Chairman Sam Torn as part of the Trott Lecture Series Thursday morning. A key figure in securing the $450 million necessary for the redevelopment of Kyle Field, Torn discussed the process of executing huge projects as well as the importance of pursuing excellence in athletics.
“I love Texas A&M, but I don’t love everything about Texas A&M,” Torn began. “One of the things I have not loved about Texas A&M is this: for decades we have been our own worst enemy culturally, athletically and academically. We have been our own worst enemy for one primary reason. Throughout the long course of our history, more often than not, we have chosen to settle. We have chosen the path of mediocrity. We have chose the path of ‘We are the Aggies, The Aggies are we,’ and that’s good enough.”
Torn said there have been times in the university’s history that the school has managed to create excellence, times which were spearheaded by individuals willing to reject a culture of mediocrity. Torn cited the original construction of Kyle Field, made possible by Dean Kyle mortgaging his house, and Earl Rudder’s push to admit women and minorities as examples of individuals refusing to settle.
Torn said Texas A&M is currently undergoing a transition in mindset, and that in recent years decisions such as the switch to the SEC, the hiring of Coach Sumlin and the renovation of Kyle Field have begun to steer the university in a new and exciting direction.
“We finally said once and for all, athletically, ‘Not this time,’” Torn said. “ The most important thing that has happened at Texas A&M, and is happening right now is the evolution of a mindset. It’s the evolution of a mindset in research, it’s the evolution of a mindset in athletics, in culture, faculty and all that stuff. We are now at a common goal of sustained excellence as a university.”
Torn said a critical part of the new mindset is consistent athletic success, proven by competing at the top level of collegiate athletics during each season. Torn said athletic success hinges on three components. First, a university with courage and vision as well as great students and accomplished faculty. Second was the facilities to support successful athletics. The last component was great coaches. Torn said one thing ties all these aspects.
“The common denominator in all of this is one thing, money,” Torn said. “ It takes a lot of other things, but you can’t run a car without gasoline.”
Torn said revenue has increased exponentially through the move to the SEC, but in order for Texas A&M to set itself apart, people need to find innovative ways to make the money necessary to support a consistently excellent athletic program.
“Our move to the Southeastern Conference was a great decision from a revenue standpoint,” Torn said. “Between the SEC Network, the college bowl playoff system, our revenue is going to increase over what we could expect in the Big 12. But how do we set ourselves apart. We need to get revenue another way. That’s where the 12th Man Foundation comes in.”
The 12th Man Foundation funds scholarships, programs and facilities in support of championship athletics. Torn became a member of the foundation’s board of trustees in 2009, where his first project involved spearheading the redevelopment of what became Blue Bell Park. What started off as an $8 million renovation became a $25 million project, with a goal of being the best redeveloped collegiate baseball facility in the country.
“I saw the renderings of that little project, and it basically looked like the finest little league facility you’ve ever seen,” Torn said. “I made the mistake of asking two simple questions. Why weren’t we building the finest collegiate baseball facility in the country, and when we collect all this money for these facilities, who makes sure it gets spent correctly?”
After asking these questions, Torn was placed in charge of the project, who expanded the project to what it is today. Torn said he reversed the normal process by designing the facility and seeking the money to fulfill that design, rather than having excellence restrained by budgetary constraints. When the price of the facility jumped to $27 million, Torn found the money by entering in contract negotiations with the contractor and installing premium seating in the stadium..
“Don’t ever sell yourself short,” Torn said. “Always drive yourself. What we did was we went out and created a vision. People bought into that vision. What we built what is arguably the finest collegiate baseball facility in the country, and we did that by refusing to settle.”
Torn also discussed the $450 million redevelopment of Kyle Field, a project he has been heavily involved in. Torn said he had specific goals for the finished project. As usual, he wanted it to be the finest facility of its type in the country. Torn also wanted the stadium to be a megaphone to the world about Texas A&M, and all the university does. The new facility should offer a superior experience for fans, as well as create an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. Lastly, Torn said they needed to produce revenue.
“Every renovation of Kyle Field that has ever occurred that has affected the students, the part of it that has affected the students has been paid by the students.” Torn said.
To raise money for the facility, the 12th Man Foundation sought out funds from the community, students and corporations. Additionally, the foundation created suites and private clubs in the stadium that would create additional revenue for the construction. Torn said the commitments for the twelve founder suites that provided a significant amount of the funds for the redevelopment came easier because of the rise in oil prices, and star quality of Johnny Manziel.
“It occurred because when we got those commitments, the price of crude was $125 a barrel,” Torn said. “Almost all the people in our Founder Suites are somehow related to the oil industry. “Johnny brought a notoriety, a swagger. He brought an excitement to Texas A&M that we hadn’t had for a long time. Because of this, our constituency all bought into the vision of Texas A&M taking its rightful place as a premier public university in this country.”
Torn said his vision with the redevelopment of Kyle Field was based on his mentality for everything else, a consistent commitment to excellence and a refusal to compromise.
“As long as you can do it ethically, honorably and with integrity, why would you want to be something other than the best, whether it’s the best in athletics or the best in academics,” Torn said. “We did that by creating a vision of excellence. From that vision, we get a shared benefit. Our university is more prestigious. But with a shared vision comes a shared sacrifice. If you’re not willing to do that you’re not going to be the best. You’re going to be stuck in the boring average of mediocrity.”
Gregg Bennett, director of the Center of Sport Management Research and Education, said Torn’s lecture was relevant to students seeking careers outside of sports as well.
“It was excellent because I think he provided a really good viewpoint of the mindset of obtaining funds, and the spirit of being an Aggie, and how that felt,” Bennett said. “More than anything, I think the theme of what he said was having the best, and if we want to have the best we have go after that and not have a mindset of mediocrity. I think that helps the student who’s not going to do those things, but performs another job in that mindset.”

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