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Friday, August 14, 1998

Cowboys camp returning to Wichita Falls

The Daily Oklahoman

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys' training camp ends Saturday - but they'll be back here next summer.

Owner Jerry Jones announced Thursday night that the Cowboys have agreed to a one-year extension that will bring the five-time Super Bowl champions back to Midwestern State University in 1999.

"We may sit down and talk about more years, but candidly this is an expression of how pleased we are and how effective our training camp has been here," Jones said."The facilities are tremendous, and there's an energy here that was evident from the very start when 15,000 people attended that pep rally."

Part of those facilities include a theater, which has been used for team meetings, and a nearby high school football stadium, which was needed one morning when MSU's grass practice fields flooded.

Jones also said this camp has a regional flavor that stretches from Oklahoma City to Dallas to west Texas.

"We noticed each day there were different people in the stands," Jones said. "We know over 50 percent are coming from outside Wichita Falls. We're involving a lot of fans in a wide area."

Last September, the club said that it would be leaving St. Edward's University after eight years in Austin due to lack of space at the Catholic school.

Wichita Falls is about 125 miles northwest of Dallas, a few miles south of the Oklahoma border.

Jones said he did not consider any other cities and was convinced by his entire family in recent days to return to Wichita Falls. Even though Jones makes the ultimate decision, he was influenced by comments from veteran players who raved about the facilities, highlighted by a state-of-the-art dormitory and weight room.

"I think it would be a consensus that we're pretty excited to be coming back," said quarterback Troy Aikman. "The people have been great and the facilities have been wonderful. From a player's perspective, we couldn't ask for anything more than what's here."

The Cowboys attract more media and fans to camp than any other NFL franchise. More than 550 press credentials have been issued the past four weeks. Nearly 90,000 fans have watched daily practices on the MSU campus. If you add the 69,000 fans at scrimmages in El Paso, Texas, and Shreveport, La., 153,000 fans have been a part of camp.

John Martinez, director of MSU's Bureau of Business and Government Research, projects $4.2 million will be injected into the Wichita Falls economy over the next six months due to the Cowboys' spending 31 days in the city of 103,000.

But the bottom line is the Cowboys are here to prepare for the upcoming season, and that part of camp has been labeled a success. Even though there are only two days left in camp, it's another three weeks before the Sept. 6 season opener.

"We've taken some giant strides here," running back Emmitt Smith said. "The next two weeks will really determine how much better we can become before the season gets started. We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of room to get better."

By nature, coaches are perfectionists. Chan Gailey said his first NFL training camp as a head coach, as expected, had positives and negatives. He highly endorsed Wichita Falls and MSU, but his top priority is to get this football team ready.

"We've gotten a lot of things done here, but we've got a lot of areas where we need to get better," Gailey said. "But we've got time."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)

All content copyright 1998, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine
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