In battle over veterinary school, Texas A&M routs Texas Tech


(Texas Tech fans and Texas A&M fans broke out into a fight when fans brought the goal post out of the stadium where the Aggies sit at Jones SBC Stadium. Tech defeated A&M 12-0.)
(11/03/01.Texas Tech fans and Texas A&M fans broke out into a fight when fans brought the goal post out of the stadium where the Aggies sit at Jones SBC Stadium. Tech defeated A&M 12-0.)

Good day Austin:

One of the revelations for me on moving to Texas was how often people’s core identity was connected to their alma mater, and how it often seemed that the most fundamental divide in the state was not so much red and blue as Longhorns and Aggies.

Yesterday was a good day for the Aggies. Rick Perry was sworn in as secretary of energy.



Not bad.

But, then again, UT has Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

(Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)


Of course, there are other allegiances in Texas, and other rivalries.

Like Texas Tech – the Red Raiders –  and its own rivalry with A&M.

From Robin Pyle in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal in October 2011.

The Red Raider-Aggie relationship has had its bumps over the years, but one of the bigger strains occurred when Texas Tech fans tore down the goal posts 10 years ago.

Hundreds of Red Raider fans stormed the football field and tore down the Jones Stadium goal posts after Tech beat Texas A&M 12-0 on Nov. 3, 2001.

The fans carried a goal post into a section where A&M fans were sitting and tried to force it into the stands. An angry brawl ensued.

Texas A&M vs/ Texas Tech goal post incident. (Bryan-College Station Eagle, Butch Ireland)
Texas A&M vs/ Texas Tech goal post incident. (Bryan-College Station Eagle, Butch Ireland)

Mike McKinney, the father of an A&M football player and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s chief of staff at the time, was punched in the face. While at first believed to be a Tech fan, it turned out to be another A&M fan.

But before video proved it wasn’t a Tech fan, McKinney blasted Tech, calling the act “absolute foolishness,” according to previous newspaper accounts.

McKinney, who recently stepped down from his position as the Texas A&M System’s chancellor, couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

This piece was written on the occasion of A&M leaving the Big 12 Conference, ending the long football rivalry between the schools.

But, as I learned this past week, a really good rivalry will find its way.

McKinney was succeeded as chancellor of A&M by John Sharp, a former Texas Comptroller (he succeeded Texas Tech alumni Bob Bullock) who was also Rick Perry’s freshman roommate at A&M.

(Deborah Cannon photo. 3/29/06)
(Deborah Cannon photo. 3/29/06)

In 1998, Perry defeated Sharp for lieutenant governor.

(Photo by Larry Kolvoord. John Sharp is joined by his son, Spencer, and wife, Charlotte, as he addresses supporters on election night after losing his bid for Texas Lt. Governor to Rick Perry.)
(Photo by Larry Kolvoord. John Sharp is joined by his son, Spencer, and wife, Charlotte, as he addresses supporters on election night after losing his bid for Texas Lt. Governor to Rick Perry.)

Small state.

Last Friday, Sharp scored a victory for the Aggies as the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents voted to drop its request to the Legislature for funding this session for a new school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

From Karen Michael in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: From pause to halt: Texas Tech regents won’t pursue vet school funding this session

Texas Tech will not pursue funding for a proposed school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo for the next two years, changing the status of the project Friday from “on pause” to halt as Tech leaders respond to Texas lawmakers’ calls to tighten budgets statewide.

The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents’ vote on the vet school came Friday after an executive session at the end of a two-day meeting in Tech’s Student Union Building.o

Regent Vice Chairman Tim Lancaster made the motion before adjourning the meeting around noon.

“I move that the board adopt the following resolution: Because of limited budget funds available to the state of Texas for the next biennium, for the two fiscal years ending August 31, 2018 and August 31, 2019, and because of the need to emphasize other funding priorities for the Texas Tech University System, it shall be the policy of the board of regents of the Texas Tech University System that the system shall not further pursue funding by the 85th legislature of the school of veterinary medicine,” Lancaster said.

Regent Mickey Long seconded the motion and the board approved it unanimously with no further discussion.


The Tech system in December — a year after first announcing its intentions to build the school — said it placed the project “on pause.”The news came less than three months after system officials traveled to Amarillo to accept a $15 million incentive offered by the Amarillo city government.

Under the terms of the incentive agreement, construction of the vet school was to begin by September 2018.

System officials had estimated the total cost of the school at $80 million to $90 million.

“What it means is we wait a couple more years,” Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole said.

“I’d love to see it right now, but I’m sure whoever the future leaders are in the city will support that expansion wholeheartedly — just as we would support any expansion of West Texas A&M University,” said Harpole.

Back in December, when Tech placed the vet school plan “on pause,” Sharp said, “I think it’s clear to everyone that the veterinary school at Texas A&M has already addressed the concerns that Texas Tech is talking about. There is no need for another veterinary college in Texas.”

A year earlier, in December 2015,  when Texas Tech unveiled its plans for a vet school, TTUS Chancellor Robert Duncan, an alumni, said:

Addressing the veterinary education needs in Texas is crucial not only because of the region’s and state’s deep-rooted history with agriculture and ranching, but also because of its continued prosperity. Our vision goes beyond the establishment of a veterinary school, setting out to transform the landscape of veterinary medicine education and provide innovative solutions for the industry’s future.

Sharp bristled at that. As he said then:

As a courtesy, last weekend I informed Chancellor Robert Duncan that the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine would soon announce a presence in several Texas A&M System schools. In response, Mr. Duncan comes up with this long-rejected claim we should fund a vet school at Texas Tech. The Coordinating Board has specifically rejected the notion, and the Legislature has rejected this for 40 years. We will proceed with our announcement as planned.

(Texas A&M Systems Chancellor John Sharp speaks about the expansion of A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The Texas A&M University System announced Thursday January 28, 2016 partnerships to expand veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach into several regions of the state through four A&M System universities. The partnership expansions are between Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and West Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton State. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
(Texas A&M Systems Chancellor John Sharp speaks about the expansion of A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The Texas A&M University System announced Thursday January 28, 2016 partnerships to expand veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach into several regions of the state through four A&M System universities. The partnership expansions are between Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and West Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton State. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

In August, Dr. Eleanor Green, dean of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science, in an Op-Ed in the Amarillo Globe-News laid out in detail why the Tech vet school was unneeded and ill-advised.

Last Sunday in Amarillo Globe-News, Texas Tech University officials expressed their desire for a new veterinary school to address a “potential” shortage of veterinarians specializing in large animals and serving rural communities, although the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board confirmed in July there is no need for a second veterinary college. (Tech, Amarillo answer call for veterinary medicine, Aug. 20,

I thank AGN for the opportunity to explain what Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and West Texas A&M University, are doing to address the Panhandle’s veterinary needs.

In 2009, when the Coordinating Board urged Texas A&M to increase enrollment, the Legislature could not pay for the necessary facilities because of the recession. Instead, Texas A&M tapped the Permanent University Fund to build a $120 million complex for veterinary education.

This month we opened our new facility and will increase the entering class to 162 students — tied for the nation’s largest. That’s an additional 30 students each year, and we can increase it to meet future needs. Larger classes are important to the Texas Panhandle because we are targeting most new seats to address two needs: More minorities and more students willing to work in rural areas and with large animals.

Earlier we announced that we are expanding veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach at West Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton State. All have unique ties to important agricultural industries, and each school has significant minority populations.


While Tech officials argue they won’t duplicate our efforts, they are asking the Legislature for almost $17 million next year as a down payment on their proposal — money we could use to ramp up efforts in the Texas Panhandle and elsewhere for an even broader impact.

That’s really the issue: What’s the most cost-effective way to train more rural veterinarians? Of the 6,660 veterinarians in Texas, only 180 are livestock veterinarians working in rural areas. As they move toward retirement, how do we meet the livestock industry’s needs?

Tech officials said their “innovative” program will focus on large animal veterinarians without duplicating our efforts. Truth is, neither accreditation standards, nor economic realities will allow that.

To make a living, most rural veterinarians have to treat small and large animals.

Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan acknowledged to the Texas Tribune: “Rural vets treat small animals and large animals. Even as a matter of accreditation, you have to have the broad spectrum of education.”

So where’s the innovation? Tech officials propose building a school without a teaching hospital. Since students have to learn surgery somewhere, they would outsource it to local clinics and veterinarians, claiming it’s cheaper and will reduce student debt. Other schools using that method actually prove more expensive, not less, while Texas A&M is a leader in cost-efficiency.

Texas A&M veterinary students have the second lowest debt load in the nation, and our tuition and fees are in the bottom third of U.S. veterinary schools. We achieved that with high standards. In 2015, our veterinary college was ranked third in the nation and sixth best in the world.

In effect, Tech is proposing that taxpayers build and pay for the ongoing cost of a start-up veterinary college under the guise it can address one state need — more rural veterinarians — without diverting resources from other veterinary needs. It won’t. Our plan will accomplish what Tech claims to do, plus we will address the needs of the Texas Panhandle and the rest of the state at a fraction of the cost.

I understand the lure of Tech’s argument about an economic boost to Amarillo, but the Coordinating Board’s July report notes “the job market for veterinarians may be at or near saturation.”

Texas Workforce Commission projects 195 annual openings for veterinarians in Texas and the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 2,700 graduates chasing 1,900 openings nationally.

We don’t have a shortage of veterinary colleges. We have a shortage of graduates who want to work in the rural areas. Our program at WT will address that. It is better to focus on how to recruit and incentivize students to practice in rural areas than to saddle taxpayers with the costly overhead of a second veterinary college.

This past December’s pause by Tech, foreshadowing last Friday’s halt, evoked some obvious resentment tand hurt feelings in West Texas.

From Jon Mark Beilue in the Amarillo Globe-News:

If you cup your ear to the south, you can hear the high-fives all the way from College Station.

Tech had the brazen audacity to step on A&M’s exclusive 100-year-old turf as the only veterinarian school in a state of 27 million and 268,000 square miles. Don’t be messing with A&M’s birthright.

“We do get a little bit offended when somebody says they’re going to try to duplicate what we have here,” A&M Chancellor John Sharp told the Bryan Eagle last month. “You can’t duplicate this in your wildest dreams.

“This is the place — and it will always be the place — where veterinary medicine reigns king in the United States of America, and I’m so proud of that.”

The Aggies have plenty of clout among lawmakers, and there’s plenty of their money that goes into campaigns.

You can look at this one of two ways: A&M has become the unofficial guardian for grateful Texas taxpayers, or one of the great land-grant universities in the country looks to be equal parts bully and petty and loves having a monopoly. I’ll let you decide.

Jay Leeson, a 2004 Texas Tech graduate in journalism and co-host of the West Texas Drive radio show, was blunter.

From Dec. 18:

AGGIE PRETENSION is becoming Aggie tradition.

With all the hullabaloo about “saw varsity’s horns off,” one would think Texas A&M veterinarian graduates actually handle large Bevo animals.

In all bragging about being a land grant and a Permanent University Fund heir (Aggies got $215 million in 2014), one might assume A&M is busy addressing critical needs of the state upon which it’s so dependent.

But as nearly 20 years of reports show, College Station has ceremoniously pumped out grads to declaw house cats and perform ACL surgeries on overweight Labradors.

Why work rural hard when you can work suburban smart.

So Texas Tech has called the question: What about a $13 billion cattle industry and more than 248,000 farms and ranches in Texas with large animals and food-producing livestock?

And Tech has provided an answer: An Amarillo-based nontraditional veterinarian school. Two or three-year degrees earned by pre-screened applicants likely to stay in West Texas and specialize in Bevo-sized animals.

A reasonable proposal by the standards of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A proposal that only needs a $17 million appropriation from a $200 billion state budget.

So why are Aggies preparing to beat the proposal all to Chigaroogarem?

Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!
Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!

All hail to dear old Texas A&M
Rally around Maroon and White
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
That good old Aggie spirit thrills us
And makes us yell and yell and yell
So let’s fight for dear old Texas A&M
We’re going to beat you all to
Rough Tough! Real Stuff! Texas A&M!

In the aftermath of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents’ decision to cede the field Friday, Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, a 1984 Texas Tech accounting and management information systems graduate, held a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs he chairs, on the need for rural, large-animal veterinarians, in which he interrogated Dr. Green at length.

Of Tech’s decision not to seek funding for the school this session, Perry told me, “sure, I’m disappointed, yeah.”

Of their explanation that they were responding to the state’s tight budget, Perry said, “All I know is the money is in the House budget.”(Albeit only $5.75 million ).

Perry said his concern is that with the only vet school at A&M, West Texans have to leave their home turf to pursue a career and may not return.

“The  idea is if I’ve had my arm up into  calf’s rear end since i was seven years old that’s something that’s not foreign to me,” but, leaving for Bryan-College Station, “You’re taking people out of their comfort zone, I’ve got blue jackets (Future Farmers) who have lived it, breathed it  and want to be there, and because they move them to College Station – or actually those kids never get a look.”



Here is some of the exchange at Monday’s hearing between Perry and Green.

Green: I was a rural veterinarian myself, primarily large animals – dairy, beef, equine – we did include some small animals in  our practice to make it economically viable. So I get this issue from the inside out.


I want to assure you that Texas A & M is addressing this problem.


We are already seeing an uptick in the number of students from rural communities who are getting into veterinary school.

We think this is the most affordable, high quality way to address this problem in Texas.


I cannot imagine us not being able to increase our class size to met the needs of Texas for as far in the future as any of us can see.


Anything we can do after they graduate to attract them to these rural areas is tremendously  important.

We have a federal loan repayment plan where they get loan repayments for up to $25,000 a year for three years if they go to these under-served areas.

There is a state statue that has been approved but not funded to do the same in Texas, $25,000 a year, it’s not limited to three years. It’s never been funded. That would be very important if that were funded to attract these students to these areas.

As you  know,, if you go to these rural areas you are going to work harder and make less.

We have $1.75 million in scholarships and they are predominately for rural student sand, in addition to that, we are the best-in-the-nation in student debt to income ratio.

If you can get them to stay for five years, you’ve got them. By then they are embedded in the community, they’re active in the community their kids are in school, they’re embedded.

If somehow we could come up with a program that would fund them to stay in the community for five years, I  think most of them we could keep.

Perry: We’ve been here before. We heard this message in ’07, ’09, and the problem just keeps getting worse. I’m almost getting the, if we build it they’ll come kind of model.

But you said it, people come to Bryan-College Station,  they like it and they stay.

My blue jacket kids, they live and breathe this stuff since they were two-years-old in those communities and I don’t see you doing anything that’s going to incentivize that in those communities rather than taking them out and moving them to a different area.

In 2009, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recognized a rural veterinarian health clinic need.

There is a lot of rhetoric out there that this $120 million facility is going to be the end-all, be-all of trying to catch all these rural health care needs and there is not a single thing in print that support this $120 million facility  being directed toward large-animal veterinarians in rural communities. In fact, if you look  at the basic design of it, it’s absolutely contrary to the messaging that’s out there.


Perry did not like Green’s reference in her Amarillo Op-Ed about a “potential” shortage of veterinarians, like it was all in their heads.

Perry: Like I say,  burn me once, shame on me; burn me twice, shame on you.

That’s actually the reverse of the usual construction of that aphorism, but it seems to work quite as well this way.

Perry: In two years this is going to be a project for me to look at what you’ve done. To me it it’s really disingenuous I think  to the public, to the veterinarian community to the people that raise cows and horses and all the other things that we establish the need is, to say, we’re  going to have  this new $120 million first class facility and have everything in the press, and everything that’s ever been stated about that to date  … be referencing and designing it for small animals because that’s where the money is, we get that, that’s where the volume is.

But if you’re going to own the veterinary school in Texas and be captive over the veterinary school in Texas, you are ignoring public safety, you’re ignoring the ability to make a living … in this state … and it’ s not just about turf battles or alma maters or any of the other things that are going on.

It’s a number one public health policy for us to have a food and safety program in place that guarantees the public will be safe. Ad I don’t get that. I get narratives in the press that move to fit to the facts it needs to be fitting today.

Green – Has anyone on this committee ever had the press say the wrong thing? Anyone? Absolutely, this is not a small animal facility. This is a veterinary and biomedical education complex that takes care of all of veterinary education. It is not about small, large, avian.

Any headline that said small animal was a misperception, and we’ have a lot of people who do say, because we need a small animal hospital and we are going to work on that, they have got the two confused in the press, and they say, congratulations on your new small animal hospital. It is not a hospital, it is not small animal. And I really appreciate the opportunity you are giving us to correct that. This is veterinary and biomedical facility that takes care of all species.

Now as university that fulfills the state veterinary needs, yes, we have to care of all needs and if you look, 65 percent of American households own pets and the growth of Texas is going to be in urban areas. Yes, we need to take care of that need. That’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about the very important rural and food animal needs

In 2009, the Higher Education Coordinating Board said `more veterinarians, more rural, more diversity, no second vet school,’ so we’re on it.


PERRY: I hope that you are successful. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, I want us to be better because we’ve got a long ways to go.

Right now one facility or one program is not big enough to handle it. But prove me wrong


How long has A& M had a vet school.

GREEN: 100 years. 1916.

PERRY: Is it fair to say that the inability to meet the rural veterinary needs has been going on for ten years?  But I’ve talked to people that this as a problem for twenty years. What gives any of us, as a Legislature, any confidence that you are going to hit the mark this time?

The Higher Education Board did not say  there is not a need for rural veterinarians. In fact, it said there is a glut for small, there are too many smalls and ya’ll continually perpetuate that, and you’ve ignored the rural since ’09 at minimal.

What is different today?

What I’ve heard so far, it ain’t going to fix it. I know my kids out there.

I can tell you what you’re proposing is not going to fix what you say it’s going to fix.

I didn’t see this urgency and this care for rural veterinarians until another school proposed an alternative to the model y’all currently use.

That’s why I’m a little bit irritated  because I’m not hearing anything you’re doing that you haven’t already been doing that hasn’t met the need. You being the sole veterinary providers in this state. The fact of it is that we run off 40 percent of our kids to Grenada, Kansas, Arkansas. I guess I’m just missing the logic here.

Green: I can very directly say, this did not start in response to any other school. This has been going on for a very long time and we can document this.

Perry: This has gotten politicized, and I’m sorry for that but hear me clearly.  My only concern is my beef , my cattle, my horses and everything else we depend on as a state, is being taken care of. And you cannot sit there  in good conscience say this has been met.

And so in the end this is about Texas. It has nothing to do with school. It’s about a public safety policy that needs to be shored up.

There’s one school tasked with that today and expectations are really high from this chairman and from other legislators.

I’ve visited with other members of the Legislature and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Red Raider, an Aggie, Tea-sipper, Beaver. Whatever our alma mater might be there is a sincere acknowledgement that this is a real issue and the fact that there isn’t any real proof that what we are going to, quote “do” today, versus what we’ve been doing when other options are existing, is a concern.

It’s not just a Red Raider on a dais as a chair. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with a need that is not being met and it’s public policy at its worst if we don’t meet it.



Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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