In 1972, Cain Hall on the A&M campus opened as a state-of-the-art facility for student athletes. Tuesday, the last piece of that tradition for Aggie athletes closed its doors, as the dining hall at Cain shut down.
Traditions are plentiful at A&M, and Cain Hall's dining was certainly a big one. But as with any big organization these days, it came down to money.
The dining hall lost a million dollars over the last three years, and stood to lose a million more this year.
But with money saved, there are jobs lost. There were 23 in this case.
"We have a lot fond memories, but we also have great feeling for our friends that work there in the athletic department," said John Thornton, the senior associate athletic director at A&M, "and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that the transition will be as smooth as it can possibly be as far as seeking other employment."
Those 23 men and women will receive paychecks until September 30th. According to Senior Associate AD John Thornton, they are looking on- and off-campus, using human resources and the Texas Workforce Commission, to find those people jobs.
Cain Hall opened 34 years ago as the dorm and dining for student athletes. It became a major recruiting draw for Aggie athletics as they worked to take the program to bigger heights, and it stayed that way for two decades.
Then, in 1991, the NCAA said a single dorm's population couldn't be more than half athletes. So Cain dwellers had to move to other campus dorms. Over the years, more and more then moved off-campus, meaning less lived and ate at Cain.
The last students moved out back in 2003, when the million dollar loss at Cain Dining Hall began. And despite efforts like offering catering and opening the facility to the public, the losses continued.
"I just think on the move type activity, people being spread out all different places on campus and in the community, it just wasn't as convenient," Thornton said. It's a bittersweet day for him, as he was among the first athletes to live and eat in Cain in 1972.
You'd be hard pressed finding a student athlete in the 70's, 80's or 90's who doesn't have a story about Cain Hall. All will miss the home cooking provided there when home for some was so far away.
Matt McCall is one of those athletes. An offensive lineman from 1987 to 1991, and with a playing weight of just over 300 pounds and standing at 6'8", McCall, as you can imagine, has fond memories of Cain.
"It's sad to see Cain Hall going," he said. "The myth, the rumor about Cain Hall was that three things didn't have a limit: our equipment, our schooling, and Cain Hall.
"It was buffet style," he remembered, "and most of the didn't use plates. They took trays and just filled them up. That was our one big plate. The food they had and the ladies that were in there were exceptional."
The university has used Cain Hall for office space over the last few years.
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