After bowl win, Ward sees great things TSU future


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

When G.J. Kinne replaced Jake Spavital as the Texas State football coach prior to last season, the Bobcats had never enjoyed a postseason bowl game.

Now, after the 45-21 victory over Rice in the First Responder Bowl at Dallas, not only have the Bobcats played in a bowl game, but they experienced a win in their first postseason outing as an FBS program.

It sounds as if fans of the Bobcats made a toast to the above, even before the win was delivered.

According to many a tweet by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Gerald J. Ford Stadium – home field of SMU — ran out of beer on the Bobcats’ side of the stadium with 12 minutes left in the second quarter. After the Texas State fans began going for their beverages on the other side, the stadium was supposedly completely out of beer with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

Caldwell County native Mitchell Ward, an alumnus, former player, and major donor to the university, jokingly blamed it on the stadium running out of cheese for nachos.

“They had free chips after they ran out if cheese,” Ward said. “They ate all the cheese in the first quarter. With no cheese, I guess the fans got thirsty.”

Ward said it was great to see Texas State fans enjoying themselves.

“They were rowdy,” Ward said of the fans. “They were drinking before, during, and after the game.”

The First Responder Bowl crowd of 26,542 was larger than any of SMU’s home games this season.

Ward said it was obvious as soon as Kinne was hired to lead the Bobcats that great things were in store.

“It really came down to Dr. Kelly Damphousse and the athletic Director, Don Coryell, making the decision that whoever they hired, the job would be too good for them to lose,” Ward said. “Hiring G.J. from Incarnate Word where had already managed a budget was ideal. Everything was better for him here. He was a winner there. He knew what he wanted to do.

“If they didn’t get to a bowl game, he wouldn’t be coaching there alone. It’s a very tough conference. Everybody has improved their program. It’s kinda like the SEC in that you’re playing someone every week that you better come ready for.”

Kinne immediately acquired the services via the transfer portal of former LSU and Auburn quarterback J.J. Finley, as well as Arkansas backup quarterback Malik Hornsby.

“G.J. has an eye for talent, and uses it,” Ward said. 

The first-year success is great for Texas State, but it comes with a price.

“If he wins next year, he’s gone,” Ward said of Kinne. He makes about $1 million. He likes where he is and loves Texas State. He likes the president and the administration. But, if someone offers him $3 million and an opportunity in a power five conference, how can you turn that down?”

Texas State is already expanding its stadium, and the goal is to have the best fieldhouse in the Sun Belt Conference. Ward said TSU is looking for about $35 million to build an indoor facility.

Finley will be back next season. MW Logistics, Ward’s Dallas-based company, is one of the athletic department’s NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) businesses. 

“If we’re wanting to play this game and win, you got to do what it takes,” Ward said.

Ward was the last person to speak outside of the coaching staff after the final walk-through the day before the bowl game.

“I joked with Coach that it’s what I said to them, that’s why they won,” Ward said.

The First Responder Bowl was the most watched of all sporting events on Dec. 26 on ESPN, with 2.8 million viewers, up 27 percent from last year’s viewership. It topped all three bowl games that day on ESPN, including the Kansas-UNLV Guaranteed Rate Bowl from Phoenix.

MW Logistics, LLC is in its 22nd year.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do,” Ward said of his business.


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