TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY Monday marks the beginning of the fall semester at Texas A&M, and also marks the last semester for R. Bowen Loftin as president of the university.
This summer, Loftin announced he was stepping down from the job he's held since 2008 when he was named interim president. The "interim" was removed from the title the next year.
When asked what his goals were for his last few months in charge, his focus went to the students, especially the new ones.
"Making sure they get a high quality experience here their first semester is very important to me personally and the entire university community," Loftin said Thursday. "That's job one, making sure these new Aggies are well treated. That takes care of my day almost all day right now."
Loftin spoke with News 3 following the ceremonial signing of an agreement between local entities and the university. In exchange for a portion of hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for Kyle Field's renovations, there will be increased local access to A&M facilities.
For many, Loftin's legacy will hang on his move of the university to the Southeastern Conference.
"I think that's something I'll be able to look back on and say, 'I was part of that, that whole development,'" he said, "but there's much more than that."
Loftin cited the acquisition of the Texas Wesleyan School of Law, along with the move of the A&M Health Science Center under the university's control.
But with football as the most prominent national part of the university, the headlines being made by quarterback Johnny Manziel have drawn a lot of attention to College Station. According to ESPN, Manziel is under NCAA investigation for accepting money in exchange for his autographs on memorabilia.
"We haven't talked recently, as a matter of fact," Loftin said of the Heisman Trophy winner. "The summertime, he was pretty much on his own. I think that's clear to most people.
"We have been very, very eager to help in any way we could. Our compliance office has been by his side as much as possible day in and day out to make sure he understands what the rules are, and I think he does. We've offered whatever assistance we could to him and his family to deal with the media onslaught he's had to live through, which is challenging for anybody, but also for someone who is his age, it's just really difficult to know how you can grapple with all these new issues, new barriers and new opportunities to go through at one time."
Thursday in an interview with News 3, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp repeatedly said Manziel was innocent of the allegations, and that he had seen evidence that others haven't that would prove it.
Loftin wouldn't go as far was Sharp.
"The American way to presume innocence," he said. "Not all agencies do it that way, but I think most Americans, if you ask them about what justice means, it says we believe you're innocent until something comes along that proves otherwise, and I think we owe Johnny that much anyway."
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