The stillest water at greatest depth has much in common with a recent retiree at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Dr. Chet Sample also runs deep, having provided exemplary leadership that encouraged scholarship ahead of intercollegiate athletics.
That said, he’s as rare as a spotless leopard, helping students focus first on the goal of college graduation, then on athletics. Along the way, he earned the respect of EVERYONE--student athletes, parents, colleagues, alumni and the rest—even opponents on the basketball floor.
On the big canvas of life, he painted potential in vivid colors, with scoreboards and statistics relegated to the background.
His 42 years in education included almost 40 at SRSU—20 as both Chair of the Physical Education Department and Athletics Director. He was men’s basketball coach for five years and women’s mentor for 15, winning or tying for conference championships six times.
Sample’s skills were called into play early when he directed the transition from scholarship to non-scholarship sports two years after arrival. The Lobos were among the first in Texas to compete without athletic scholarships.
The university’s remote location complicates travel. The closest opponent is more than 300 miles away; some are almost a thousand. Merely arriving at some destinations should count for something.
Traveling a million miles or so provides many memories, and some cause Sample to redden on the retelling. Arriving in Stephenville with his women’s team well after the midnight hour, he distributed motel room keys, wearily urging them to retire immediately, hoping they could be as fresh as possible for tournament play a few hours later.
He hastened to his room, first removing contact lenses from tired eyes. Feminine voices, laughter and general revelry in the adjoining room made sleeping impossible. Rapping on the wall didn’t help, so he slipped on his clothes and knocked on their door. Explaining the cow’s methodology in cabbage-eating, he made it clear that the girls should begin the quiet game immediately, and they did.