Juneteenth sees Carlton Cooper take the reigns as new Texas A&M Commerce Athletic Director
I always take off for the Juneteenth holiday The occasion of emancipation is worth celebrating regardless of when the news was received. Most of us celebrate Christmas in the winter with a pagan Christmas tree so it should be all good. If our ancestors thought Juneteenth was worth celebrating then I think we should do so, if only to honor them.
With all that said, I took off work and my family and I traveled to Commerce to witness our friend and fellow Parisian Carlton Cooper installed as the new athletic director at Texas A&M – Commerce University. It was a fitting way to celebrate the holiday because Carlton is one of the few black athletic directors at a predominantly white institution. When the school was founded as East Texas Normal College in 1889, few would have imagined such a position occupied by an African-American.
On Tuesday, Texas A&M Commerce President Keith McFarland made it official, as he introduced Carlton at a standing room only press conference in the university's Administration Building. Carlton's wife Niesje was present as were his daughters Chanel and Ava. Also in attendance were his mother Barbara and his brother Keith. There were a number of friends and well wishers who made the trip from Paris in support of Carlton as well.
In his introduction, Dr. McFarland stressed that the search process for the new A.D. sought someone with "high ethical and moral standards" who would "maintain a squeaky clean program." He also emphasized the fact that one of Carlton's main functions will be raising funds for the athletic department.
Faculty member Chuck Nash, who headed the search committee, spoke about the process that lead to Carlton's selection. According to Mr. Nash, it was a "national search" that included 19 applicants from 8 states. 11 candidates made it through the first round and there were three finalists chosen to meet with university officials and members of the athletic department.
Once the former UT basketball standout took the podium, he thanked Dr. McFarland for "believing in the process, and the results (of that process) being me." After acknowledging the support of his family, he thanked other athletic administrators, including USC athletic director Mike Garrett and former SMU A.D. Jim Copeland.
He then expressed his vision for TAMU-C: "to be viewed as a national leader in college athletics; recognized for academic and athletic excellence." His goals for the department are:
* Education and graduation of student athletes
* Win championships
* Increase revenue
* Increase community relations
* Increase attendance
* Facilities enhancement
Carlton has what it takes to be successful in Commerce. He was a Division I student athlete that graduated from the University of Texas in four years and went on to attain his master's degree. He's from the area and knows many of the coaches at surrounding high schools. And he's been preparing for his new role during his time as Senior Associate Athletic Director at SMU.
In a brief conversation I had with Carlton yesterday, he mentioned the importance of exposing young people to a university setting. Once they walk around a college campus, they are inspired to further their education after high school.
So to all my Dallas friends who went to East Texas State, get excited and get ready for some good times for Lions athletics. Also, you need to get your checkbooks ready, see the two references above to revenue/funds.