From a small dream to a proposition to a building of over 50,000 gross square feet, a new on-campus basketball facility has been a topic of conversation Dustin Womble has been a part of for years.
Because of a love for Tech Athletics that has grown throughout his childhood, his time as a Tech student and his postgraduate life as a Lubbock businessman, Womble and his family, in November 2017, contributed $10 million to the establishment of the Dustin R. Womble Basketball Center. Named in recognition of the lead gift, the facility will be dedicated to giving the Tech basketball programs a place to practice and develop by providing multiple new amenities.
The donation was one of the largest to The Campaign for Fearless Champions, which is a Tech initiative to better athletic facilities on campus and support student-athlete scholarship endowments, according to the Tech System Institutional Advancement website.
Womble, who has continued to serve on the Tech System Board of Regents since being appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2019, first attended Tech in 1977 and graduated with a degree in management information systems in 1981, he said. He started a software company called Interactive Computer Designs (INC0DE) a year before he graduated from Tech.
The company merged with two other software companies in 1988 and became a public entity called Tyler Technologies, Womble said. Being promoted to the Tyler Technologies board of directors in 2005 and later assuming the role of executive vice president, he oversaw the growth of the company, which he retired from in 2016.
Womble, who remains on Tyler Technologies' board of directors, said he is proud of what Tech stands for, what it has accomplished and what it has given him while he was a student. He said it has been a privilege to be associated with the university.
“I’m proud of my contributions to the university,” he said. “I love that school; it’s a privilege to serve on the Board of Regents. I love being associated with Athletics. I’ve only missed one Tech home football game here since Thanksgiving of 1977, so Athletics is a significant part of the fabric of our family.”
The donation was a chance for Womble to give back to Tech, he said.
“The whole family is proud of the facility,” he said. “We’re excited to be associated not only with men’s basketball but all the athletic programs at the university. I’m just happy Tech has prepared and allowed me to be successful enough to be put in an opportunity to give back to the university.”
Ideas about having a place solely for the Tech men’s and women’s basketball teams to practice started surfacing around 2011-12, Womble said.
“The idea of a practice facility, from my perspective, really started as far back as (former Tech men’s basketball head coach) Billy Gillispie’s tenure here at Tech,” he said. “I got associated with the men’s basketball program through (former men’s basketball assistant coach) Bubba Jennings, who was on Billy’s staff.”
Jennings thought a basketball practice facility was a missing piece of Tech, Womble said.
After a year with Chris Walker, who served as the interim men’s basketball head coach for the 2012-13 season, Womble said former men’s basketball head coach Tubby Smith, who served from 2013-16, was passionate about having a basketball practice facility on campus.
“United Supermarkets Arena is a great facility, one of the best in the country, but it really did not provide the practice facility the men’s and women’s program needed because the USA is used for so many other activities from graduations to concerts to job fairs,” Womble said.
The Tech volleyball program’s use of the USA affects the basketball programs as well, Womble said.
“It’s a very heavily-used facility, and it displaces our basketball programs on a very regular basis while they share that facility with volleyball as well,” he said. “So, we have three varsity sports that use that facility heavily, and right now, they’re having to all workout inside of that one facility as well.”
With Kirby Hocutt, director of Tech Athletics, and Smith, Womble said there were discussions about establishing a basketball practice facility while Smith was still serving as head coach. Smith later ended his time as a head coach at Tech and became the new basketball coach at the University of Memphis in 2016.
The day Smith left for Memphis, Womble said he had a meeting with Hocutt and member’s of Smith’s former staff to further talk about the idea of a Tech basketball practice facility.
“From the transition from coach Smith to (Tech men’s basketball head coach Chris Beard), the project sort of got stalled for close to a year,” he said.)
Once the first season under Beard ended and plans were being made to get the basketball program to where it needed to be, Womble said talks regarding the basketball facility resurfaced. During this time, he said he agreed to make the lead gift for the facility.
Since that time, Womble said a lot of people have been involved in the project and contributed a lot of time and effort into the facility.
Regardless, the Womble center could impact Tech’s basketball programs in different ways.
From Beard’s perspective, Womble said the Tech men’s basketball program works on being developmental.
“(Beard’s) style is to recruit kids that want to get better, that are willing to do the work, that are willing to sacrifice their own statistics and glory for the betterment of the team, and (the Womble Center) provides everything they need to do that,” he said.
Whether it be the nutrition center or weight-training rooms, Womble said there are amenities available to help players reach the high level of skills they are physically and mentally capable of achieving.
The Womble center has the potential to be better than other basketball practice facilities in the country, Womble said. The Tech basketball programs can use the facility as a way to attract recruits.
Regardless, Womble said he is excited to see what the programs do with the facility.
“This facility will really be just another tool,” he said. “It allows coach Beard and )Tech women’s basketball head coach) Krista Gerlich to really take those kids and really give them the opportunity to develop into the players and the young men and women they can be.”