Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Former Feuds and Unexpected Allies

Former Feuds and Unexpected Allies

referee at football game

Texas Tech University joined the Southwest Conference (SWC) in 1958. When Tech joined it was a huge occasion not only for the school, but for all of west Texas. Think of University of Texas, Darrell Royal, Texas A&M, and the University of Oklahoma. We were the seventh school to join. Eventually the membership grew to nine with the admission of the University of Houston in 1972. The SWC remained unchanged until Arkansas departed in 1990.

Being born in 1954, the SWC was the only conference in my book, as it was for almost everybody else in Texas. I remember Humble Oil Company (forerunner to Exxon) sponsored the SWC Highlight Reel every year, and the local Humble Distributor in my hometown, Mr. Schneider, would bring it to our school and show it at an assembly. All the students really looked forward to that day.

Also, the local Humble Service Station (yes, real service, including checking the oil levels, air pressures, and washing your windshield) would give out a free SW Conference drinking glass with each fill-up. We had to collect all nine!

I tell this because the COVID-19 pandemic has created some friends among former SWC rivals. I am talking about the University of Arkansas.  We are now “frenemies.” Here is how it happened:

Back in the spring, when it became clear we did not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), I contacted my friend, Dr. Ryan Schmidt in the School of Health Professions. I knew Ryan was an expert in supply chain management—both by experience and formal education. I also recruited Matt Driskill and Kassie Pelham to the team I was putting together to work on obtaining PPE.  Ryan put us in touch with his colleagues at the Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas. As you might guess from the name of the business school, these Arkansans are closely aligned with a little company you may have heard of—Walmart.  And Walmart knows a thing or two about moving merchandise.  

A few nights later, Matt, Ryan and I were on a phone call with an American who had lived in China for thirty years — a former US Marine in the automobile parts business with his dad.  After some negotiations, and with a lot of help from our Texas Tech Purchasing Department, we had loads of PPE on planes and in ships leaving China headed eventually to Lubbock.

All this made me tease our new professor friends at the University of Arkansas by telling them, “Years ago, we were enemies (not really, competitors is the better term) on the athletic field, and now we are best friends forever because you are helping us obtain PPE from China!”  All of this was interesting to me.

Furthermore, I thought back to getting those free SWC drinking glasses from the service station when I was a boy, and smiled at the twists and turns of life: A Red Raider and a Razorback working together to get PPE from China.