The success of Louisiana Tech's men's and women's athletic teams is most often charted in game stories and box scores.
But the impact of Tech athletics, the way it serves to improve both the economics and quality of life in Ruston and North Louisiana, runs far deeper than just numbers on a newspaper's Sports page.
By its nature, collegiate competition promotes loyalty and enthusiasm. Those factors mean fan support and allegiance, which translates into a steady economic impact that saturates the area year-'round.
Louisiana Tech athletics has become an institution in itself in northern Louisiana. Tech's 16 NCAA Division I programs continues to provide a number of opportunities for national exposure and to attract new visitors to the region.
During the fall, home football games average more than 20,000 fans; Tech played six home games in 2008. The weekend crowds boost hotel stays, restaurant bookings, shopping excursions and of course, food and convenience store sales. For each home football game, Ruston's 975 hotel rooms are sold out.
Bulldog and Lady Techster basketball provides an entertainment and television perspective, offering more exposure opportunities with the large number of home games and the number of televised games.
Baseball's economic impact on the community is also significant with visiting teams spending more nights in Ruston than do the visiting teams for any other sport.
Tech athletics motivates alumni to return to the campus and the community and to maintain or re-establish a connection with the area after graduation. The pride and association that athletics provides to both to the alumni community and to the general population of northern Louisiana is strong and enduring.
Tech's enrollment is also directly affected by athletics. Nearly 400 student-athletes come to the University to earn a top-flight education, but that also give back to the area in a number of volunteer or community service capacities. The media attention that Tech athletics generates is also of significant value to the University as well as the region.
But there are other more intangible effects of Tech athletics; those have to do with its improving the quality of life here in Ruston and in North Louisiana.
Tech athletes are, after all, students first, athletes second. When they were Bulldogs, Tech greats like Terry Bradshaw and his favorite collegiate receiver, Tommy Spinks, were playing football with Vacation Bible Schoolers in Ruston in the late-'60s.
The same spirit holds true today. Football players teach soccer at local schools. A baseball player drafted into the pros comes back to Ruston to practice with a team of 10-year-old Dixie Leaguers. Bowlers, tennis players, baseball players and track athletes have volunteered at fundraising concession stands at youth-league games, have helped get youth-league fields ready for play, have officiated youth-league and church-league games.
Finally, Tech athletics provides support to area schools and local students through coaching clinics, summer camp skill instruction and use of athletic facilities. Youngsters see Tech athletes as "real people," not just characters competing on a TV screen.
For young students in the area, Tech athletes illustrate work ethic, the importance of education and the rewards of working through adversity.
It is hard to dispute the tremendous positive impact that Louisiana Tech athletics has on the citizens of northern Louisiana in a variety of areas. The athletic program provides a great source of pride and a season-to-season entertainment value.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Lady Techsters have a tremendous economic impact within the community by bringing to town thousands of people who spend their dollars in area businesses.