LUBBOCK, Texas - Polk Robison spent the better part of seven decades at Texas Tech University as a student-athlete, coach and administrator. Robison, 96, passed away Friday morning. The following is a story on Robison that was featured in the 2005 Homecoming Game day program.
A True West Texas Legend
By: Felicia Michael
Some know him as a coach, an administrator, and as an athletics director, but you can simply call him "Mr. Texas Tech." Ninety-three-year-old Polk Robison may not have been born in Texas, but he grew up here, and Lubbock is what he calls home. His achievements are numerous and he is renowned for his outstanding service to Tech, which covered five decades.
Robison was born in Springfield, Tenn., but moved with his parents to Texas when he was 14. He attended Ranger High School and graduated from Lubbock High School at age 16. Robison started his legacy at Tech in 1930 and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1934. During this time, he helped lead his team to three-consecutive Border Conference basketball championships as a 6-foot-2 center.
After graduation, he took a teaching and football coaching position at Burkburnett High School. In 1940, he tried an alternate route and went to Houston to do contract work for General Motors. Robison, being addicted to sports and the atmosphere that comes with it, returned to Tech in 1941 during the days of WWII as assistant football and assistant basketball coach under Berl Huffman.
In 1942, Robison moved into the head coaching position for men's basketball and served as head coach for 18 seasons. During this time he compiled a record of 249-196. He coached Tech to its first Southwest Conference championship in 1961, a third-place finish in the NCAA Regional Tournament, and to three Border Conference titles. Robison is second all-time in victories by a coach at Tech, and during this time Tech became recognized for one of the most solid programs in the nation. He also coached tennis for a short time and guided a tennis team that went on to win the SWC title.
Robison served as assistant athletics director under DeWitt Weaver for five years, then retired from active coaching in the fall of 1961 to devote his full attention to athletic directorship. He served as Tech's athletic director from 1960-1970, and was inducted into the National Association of College Directors of Athletes Hall of Fame in 1978. From 1970-77, he served as the athletics administrator for finance and development, which led to his retirement on Aug. 31, 1977.
When he retired, Robison had contributed 41 years of his life by the time Tech reached its 51st year as a higher education institution. He was inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Honor in 1976, and in 2004, jersey No. 1 was retired and hung in the United Spirit Arena in his honor. He also was given a chair with his name on it that head coach Bob Knight said would permanently be placed on the team bench.
Robison was married to the late Stephanie Corley Robison of Eagle Lake and they have three children; Bill, Kay and Anne. Now that he is retired, he spends his days doing yard work and keeping up with world and local activities. When reminiscing in his trophy room, next to his plaques for hall of fame honors and a certificate from Governor Preston Smith naming him Colonel in the Texas army, you can see enshrined a certificate of his "Grandpa Bragging License." Much like his trophy room, he prides himself on his yard work which is cut, tidy and filled with many memories.
Throughout his life, sports have always been a big part of his daily routine. Robison said, "When I was younger, my mother accused me of being `ball crazy' because any sport or thing that had to do with a ball, I played or participated in it." Although he is long retired, Polk still does his best to attend numerous sporting events on campus. "I'm not interested in just one sport," he said, "I love to watch the sport of the season."
"As a coach, my favorite part was the contact with each player. Working with them as athletes and individuals and seeing their development, not just in sports, but in life, is a remarkable experience," he said. "If you think about it, our life is a game of sport. We start off poorly, then gradually develop and reach the ultimate goal of success."
Gerald Myers, athletics director at Tech, commended Robison for having a big influence on the university and Tech athletics, and for serving as athletics director. "He helped lay a solid foundation in the beginning years of the Southwest Conference for a lot of things we enjoy today," Myers said. "His hard work during those years until the SWC broke up in the early 90's enabled us to move into the Big 12 Conference."
Myers played basketball at Tech for Robison and praised him on being a great coach. "I look up to Coach Robison because he is articulate, intelligent, a gentleman, and has qualities of integrity, sportsmanship and doing things the right way," he said. "You always like a coach that has a lot of strong feelings for the university they coach for, and that was evident in him."
Robison said when he was a student at Tech, the campus was a lot smaller and personal. "Because it was so new and small, you could walk around and see someone and know who they were. I liked being able to call people out by name," he said. "The friendliness was great, but I will admit the one thing I don't miss about being a student is taking exams!"
When asked what his favorite tradition at Tech was, Robison replied, "the Saddle Tramps are my favorite because they have maintained a high respect over the years and have shown great support for men's athletic programs." Robison does in fact share a special bond with the organization and has been previously named an honorary Saddle Tramp.
Being an alumnus, Robison has a great sense of pride in Texas Tech. "To see something grow from infancy to what it is today with its popularity showing all over the state, and to be a part of that development is amazing," he said. "I have spent most of my life on this beautiful campus and the closeness that I feel to it is real satisfying."
To live a life as rewarding and fulfilling as Robison has lived
is a feat that many seek out to accomplish, and one would be lucky to
even come close. Robison's life and the example that he has set for
future generations holds true to an infamous phrase..."Heroes get
remembered, but legends never die." (The Sandlot)