The Permian Basin is known for being an oil-rich area, bringing thousands to work in the field. But the sense of community and passion for sports brings many to stay for good. While the infamous Friday Night Lights of high school football were born right here in Odessa, the city welcomed a team in 2016 that changed the game.
The dream became a reality in fall of 2016 for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin athletics department, when the Falcons officially announced they’re bringing Saturday night college ball to Odessa, Texas. A total of 28 players signed onto what was just a vision at the time, some coming from Odessa’s local standout high school football programs.
UT Permian Basin brought college football to Odessa with a boom in local economy and a bang on the field, winning their inaugural game against Sul Ross State, hoping to set the tone for the season. While the team went on to score big in game two, taking home the win, that wasn’t the case for the rest of the season. However, as the Falcons took the field week after week, the stands continued to roar in true West Texas style. People from all over Texas filled Ratliff Stadium to cheer on their kids and their friends, and watch history in the making at the same stadium that’s the home of Friday Night Lights.
The spirit of fandom shined just as bright for the Basin’s new college team as it did through decades of high school football games. UT Permian Basin said the Falcons ranked second in 2016 for football attendance among Division II schools in all the nation. A total of 51,289 total fans filled six games, with an average attendance of 8,548. One thing is for sure: the loyalty of West Texans isn’t shaken by the numbers on the scoreboard. Although it’s a change from your regular high school game, Falcon Football is more connected to the Friday Night Lights phenomenon than you think. Head football coach Justin Carrigan was part of the “Friday Night Lights” TV show as an extra. The show, book, and the movie were all created in response to the culture of Odessans who were, and still are, obsessed with football.
Arguably one of the best books written about sports, Friday Nights Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger follows the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they made a run toward the state championship. The author chronicled the life of the team, the coaches, and the residents of Odessa during that season to fully understand the obsession. While the book shined a not so positive light on Odessa, from there on out, Odessa was and still is known as a destination for sporting event greatness.
Speaking of greatness, Odessa is home of champion athletes such as silver medalist Toby Stevenson, and NFL greats Roy Williams, Marcus Cannon, and Bront Bird. UT Permian Basin isn’t missing the opportunity to continue paving a path to add to that list. Former offensive lineman Corin Brooks picked up an undrafted free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2017. He’s the first Falcon player to make the trip to NFL training camp, extending that dream to other players here in the Permian Basin who hope to make a pro football career their reality too.
While Odessa might be famously known for football, when it comes to any sport, Odessa excels at them all. In addition to being home of Ratliff Stadium, one of the premier high school facilities in the U.S. and one of the Top 10 high school sports facilities ranked by USA TODAY, Odessa has state-of-the-art courts, courses, fields and tracks. The City welcomes sports planners, teams and fans to come and immerse themselves in a town that celebrates all sports.
No matter what you’re planning, we invite you to plan your next event in Odessa for a one-of-a-kind experience.We know that planning sporting events can be challenging but planning a sporting event in Odessa is a breeze, because Odessa knows sports. Here’s what we can do to make your big game unforgettable: The Odessa Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) can assist you with booking sports facilities, assist with registration preparation and submissions and help coordinate media. We offer world-class sports facilities, top-quality hotels, delicious and affordable restaurants, and Odessa is home to friendly and enthusiastic fans.
Find out more about Odessa’s facilities and recreational activities by visiting www.odessacvb.com or by calling (432) 333-7890. Let Odessa's CVB Sports Specialist, Melissa Aguirre, show you what Odessa can do to help you score big with your next event.