Cameron teams no longer in dark
Ups and down are part of any college athletic program and most often those peaks and valleys occur because of what is happening on the field of play.
However, for Cameron University Athletic Director Jim Jackson, he and his department are going through an exciting experience that is very enlightening, literally.
Thanks to a generous grant from the McMahon Foundation, Cameron is in the process of adding lights to both the McMahon Softball Field and McCord Field, putting the school on even terms with the rest of the Lone Star Conference schools.
Of course, the immediate benefit is that by playing evening games more parents, students and fans will be able to attend the games.
For the two teams there is another important benefit; the opportunity to host the Lone Star Conference Tournament and NCAA Division II playoff tournaments.
Some Aggie fans will remember a few years ago when the CU baseball team was fighting for the conference title but had the Aggies won the regular-season title that year, because the school didn't have a lighted field, the Aggies would not have been allowed to host the tournament.
The NCAA is even more stringent, not allowing a team to host a regional without lighted fields.
That will no longer be a concern thanks to the McMahon Foundation which has stepped up time after time for the Lawton community.
"This is a huge deal for our program," Jackson said. "We've been wanting them because of the importance when it comes to hosting the playoffs and since I believe we are the only school not to have lighted fields, it was putting us at a disadvantage in several ways."
While it may be hard to pinpoint the financial impact, the chance for the softball and baseball teams to be supported and enjoyed by more fans is the biggest benefit.
"We've all seen it, you flick on those lights and they just seem to attract people," Jackson said. "I'm confident we will get better crowds, especially students and parents; people who work and don't get off until 5. It will offer a better atmosphere and give our players more support, which makes that home-field advantage even greater."
Jackson also pointed out another benefit of having lights.
"Just think about this, today (Tuesday) we had that horrible wind and it forced us to cancel the softball games," Jackson said. "Anyone who has been in Oklahoma knows that often those winds die down around sunset. We might have been able to delay that doubleheader to a 5 p.m. start and get the games in, or at least have had that opportunity."
There are other ways the lights could help.
"I also see a time where we stagger the starting times," Jackson said. "This weekend both the softball and baseball teams are hosting conference series and we could start one in the afternoon at say 1 p.m. and then play the other at 5 or 7 if it's a single game.
"That eases the pressure on our staff announcer, scoreboard, sports information, game management it could make those days easier on our staff and also give fans a chance to watch both teams play. That is something most of the other Lone Star schools are doing already and now we can do the same thing."
There is also a chance that the project may be completed in time for the teams to play at least a couple of games under the lights this season.
"The original goal was to have them ready by next season, but they are moving along faster than even they expected," Jackson said. "The electrical contractor on the job is working another project as well, so the timing may be a little longer. We're just going to wait and see what happens. If we get to play this year, fine, but we're not rushing them."