Texas Tech University, as well as Lubbock, Texas, has a negative stigma from outsiders. Some of the criticism may be fair, but most is not accurate at all. But the problem I run into when I meet alumni is that many of us are not great at accurately presenting how wonderful West Texas really is. For those of us with degrees from Texas Tech, or those currently enrolled, we understand what a special place it really is. And for those that don't get it - well, you just don't get that you don't get it.
Here are five things about Texas Tech and Lubbock that you should know:
1. Lubbock is the third largest city in the Big 12
There's the perception that there is nothing in Lubbock. I hear it from everyone that hasn't been there. But instead of saying "there is nothing in Lubbock," it should be worded, "there is nothing between Lubbock and where you came from." Yes, Lubbock is isolated with little between the big cities and itself, but it is not desolate. Lubbock has a thriving financial economy with a hotter-than-you-would-think real estate market. Banking, education and agriculture drive the region that has seen a 10 percent population growth over the past three years. It has great shops, restaurants, parks and biking trails. Whenever someone says, "there's nothing there," I quickly respond with, "you've obviously never been."
Lubbock and its six surrounding counties is the world's largest cotton-producing region. (Updated as of 5/19) An estimated 30 percent of the country's cotton comes from the South Plains. For the rest of schools in Texas wearing cotton t-shirts and polos to games, you can thank a West Texan.
For those who couldn't figure it out, Austin is the largest with Fort Worth coming in second. Stillwater is the smallest.
2. The red dirt music scene is one of the best in Texas
Austin is the "live music capital of the world," and it is well-deserved. There are many things worse than listening to music in Texas' capital city in the spring or fall with a cocktail. But what major music acts has Austin itself produced? Here is an actual list, but I didn't recognize many after Willie Nelson. Lubbock on the other hand has helped shape the careers of Pat Green, Josh Abbott, Wade Bowen, William Clark Green and more. When I was in college Josh played every Tuesday night at Blue Light Live, with WCG filling in some other days during the week. I couldn't go a month without seeing Randy Rogers Band or Eli Young Band. Pat always played a couple shows in the streets of the Hub City. When it comes to good red dirt music, there aren't many scenes better than Lubbock.
3. Texas Tech is a Carnegie Tier One Research University
Earlier this year Texas Tech University was listed among the nation's top doctoral universities in the latest Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The Carnegie ranking - one of the most prestigious - is updated every five years, based upon criteria including research expenditures, number of doctorate degrees awarded and the size of the university's research staff. Tech is one of four universities in Texas to achieve this status. The other three are Rice University, University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Not bad company to be in.
4. Texas Tech's athletic facilities -- and attendance -- are growing
Jones AT&T Stadium is the third largest in the Big 12, but Tech is currently the only school in the conference without an indoor football facility. That will change a year from now when they open their new practice facility, which is a part of the Campaign for Fearless Champions. This campaign, which will put $185 million of private funds into adding and improving facilities, will benefit all programs university-wide. In addition to the indoor football facility, track and field will be getting a new indoor facility; the United Supermarkets Arena will also receive improvements, as will every other Big 12-participating program.
As far as attendance, Texas Tech ranked 29th nationally in football attendance even though they play in the 43rd largest college football stadium. Tech has experienced a two percent increase in home attendance year over year for the past couple years. That's despite the fact that college football attendance nationally is down. Over the past six years, the University of Texas is down eight percent and Oklahoma State is down nine percent. To give you an example of how college football attendance has slipped, the University of Alabama has seen a decrease in their football attendance over the past five years.
Once ranking in the bottom three consistently in baseball, Texas Tech had the second highest average attendance in the Big 12 during the 2015 season, with the 2016 numbers likely to top that. Basketball attendance was also the higher this year -- mostly because of a winning product. But with Chris Beard and a returning core, this next basketball season should see its highest attendance in 10 years.
5. Texas Tech enrollment is up, but acceptance rates are not
Being accepted into Texas Tech University is harder than it has ever been, with SAT and ACT average scores rising, as well as the amount of applications and students enrolling.
Since 2010, the amount of applications being submitted to Texas Tech has increased each year; from 16,687 in 2010, to 23,157 in 2015. Of the 16,687 applications in 2010, 11,873 were admitted, which is 71 percent of applicants. In 2015, a record number of applications poured in. However, of those 23,157 applications, only 14,621 were admitted which accounts for 63 percent, making Texas Tech statistically harder to get into than in year's past (Texas A&M has had a three percent increase in acceptance over the last six years). An argument can be made that the quality of applicants could be slipping, but the average SAT and ACT score of applicants is on the rise, with an additional increase of graduates in the top 10 percent of their class applying to Tech.
So what does this mean? In a nutshell, Texas Tech's academics are continually improving and more students state- and nation-wide are taking notice and want to be a part of our university. For the seventh straight year, Texas Tech University reported another enrollment record with 35,893 students for the 2015 fall semester.
"The quality of our students keeps improving each semester," M. Duane Nellis, former Texas Tech president, said in the summer of 2015. "This year we are seeing an increased growth among our diverse student population, international student enrollment, number of graduate students and an increased average of SAT scores among our freshman class. This is a testament to the work and effort Texas Tech has put in to create a strong research institution, and it is an exciting time to be a part of this university."