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UTSA football update

The Trib has a nice story about the state of UTSA’s fledgling football program.

Next fall, UTSA will spend millions to field a football team it hopes will someday compete with cross-state rivals like the University of Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. But the plan goes far beyond athletics. As the college makes a push to become one of the next Tier One research universities in Texas, campus leaders say the school’s academic and athletic goals are closely linked.

Students and administrators, led by UTSA President Ricardo Romo, hope the team will foster school pride and capture the attention of alumni, who they believe will be more likely to support university financially. They also hope a team will transform the university from a commuter school to one where students live and play. “The whole campus is kind of buzzing about it,” says Travis Goodrich, a UTSA sophomore. “We need school spirit. We don’t really have that right now.”

But there are skeptics. While many faculty have enthusiastically supported the creation of the football program, others have wondered whether the university has its priorities straight. Mansour El-Kikhia, president of UTSA’s faculty senate, says faculty support is mixed for the project. The major fear, he says, is that the team will distract from the university’s academic mission or divert dollars from the institutional budget. The university has pledged “that no funds will be taken away from the institution to finance this football team,” El-Kikhia says. “Of course, there’s always the fear that UTSA will become a diploma mill for athletes and so forth.”

UTSA had dreams for a football team long before Romo’s tenure as president began. But when he took the job, he was skeptical himself. “When I got here I didn’t think we had the resources to pull it off,” he says. “I needed to see some things happen.”

I’ve blogged about this before here and here; the Trib also has a sidebar story. As I’ve said, I think they’re in a strong position to be successful, in that they essentially have no local competition for fans’ attention and dollars. Having a team, especially one that does well on the field, can only enhance their visibility, which will be a benefit. Given the nature of college sports, the administration is more than a little too optimistic about what the costs will be, and those on the faculty who worry about it are right to do so. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pursue their plan, just that they ought to be a bit more realistic about it. As long as everyone’s expectations are properly set, I think they’ll look back on this and be glad they did it.

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