The support was overwhelming, especially as far as fee votes go – as students voted 2-to-1 to reinstate football and add the other two programs.
Time passed after the vote and on Jan. 20, 2005, university president James D. Spaniolo stated that he would re-examine the issue in five years.
The higher priority according to Spaniolo was building a convocation center to replace Texas Hall.
The special events center spoken about in 2005 has come to fruition. The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the design in November 2009 with groundbreaking scheduled to occur in upcoming months.
There is no question that the facility was and still is needed to replace Texas Hall.
Texas Hall, affectionately known as "The Stage" is perhaps the most unique place to watch a sporting event in the country. The basketball court is on a stage, which allows several thousand UT-Arlington fans the chance to sit in theater-style seating as they watch their team on an elevated floor. Besides those seats, fans also have the option of sitting in bleachers on the opposite side of the court.
That being said, ground is expected to be broken on the $78 million special events center that will seat 6,500 UT-Arlington fans.
Now that this hurdle has been overcome, the attention needs to turn to football.
In the current makeup of the SLC, there are just two schools that do not have football – UT-Arlington and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
While the Corpus Christi school is still making its way through recent NCAA violations and has set enrollment goals before adding football, UT-Arlington is much better positioned to add the sport.
It is not like UT-Arlington is a stranger to having a Division I football program, especially in the SLC.
The university was home to a junior college program before moving to Division II in 1959. The Mavericks eventually moved to Division I in 1970, where they remained through the 1985 season.
A football-playing member of SLC from 1964, the Mavericks won three league championships and the 1967 Pecan Bowl, before Wendell Nedderman pulled the plug on the program on Nov. 26, 1985.
UT-Arlington's program would be one of two Texas SLC programs to close in the 1980s. It was followed by SLC member - turned independent - Lamar in 1989. The reasons according to Nedderman were the poor attendance (an average of 5,600 fans per game) and a loss of nearly $1 million a year.
In recent years, college football has returned to UT-Arlington.
Similar to many other schools that do not field football teams, UT-Arlington became home to a club football team. The club football team has survived since 2007 despite reluctance at first by the university and the school’s intramural and recreation department.
The team has competed in a semi-pro league, besides playing other club teams. The program is set to take another step forward this coming fall, as it joins the Midwestern Club Football Conference in 2010. That league includes Wright State, New Orleans and SIU-Edwardsville among others.
This coming year could be a real test of how far the club program has come and it could show the university administration that football is viable.
The campus recreation department is working to increase student awareness and involvement in an effort to generate school spirit.
Could it succeed and perhaps outdraw Division I athletics as far as student attendance is concerned? It would not surprise me.
Should UT-Arlington decide to add football, a major part of the equation is fulfilled as the facility is in place.
Maverick Stadium served as the home of the program from 1980 to 1985. If Lamar's return to football proves anything, a stadium can be renovated and a program restored.
A 15,000-seat venue, Maverick Stadium is still used by UT-Arlington's track and field programs. The venue also is home to the Arlington Independent School District.
Besides a facility, UT-Arlington has not been a slouch as far as success is concerned.
Typically one of the more well-rounded athletic programs in the league, UT-Arlington has won the All-Sports trophy on three occasions and do claim one of the league’s top performances – a 1989 appearance in the NCAA volleyball program. Additionally, since 2005, the women’s basketball program has made two NCAA tournament appearances with the men taking to the floor in the NCAAs in 2008.
Though he might not be thinking about football or perhaps he is hiding his cards, President Spaniolo might want to think about acting soon.
During the last decade, SLC rivals Southeastern Louisiana, Lamar and UT-San Antonio have all added football.
Among the upstart trio, UTSA is using football to springboard to a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference. The other two schools - SLU and Lamar - have seen growth in university enrollment since adding the sport.
UTSA might end up being the first SLC school to jump conferences in the wake of the upcoming game of dominoes, also known as college sports realignment. It is no secret that other schools in the league are also trying to position themselves to improve their standing when the dominoes fall.
UT-Arlington should know something about preparation, thanks to its Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex neighbors at Texas Christian and Southern Methodist. Those two schools were stunned and left behind when the Southwest Conference split.
Does UT-Arlington want to find itself in a similar situation, one that could have easily been avoided by adding football?
SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett has said in the past - and I am paraphrasing - if you do not have a football program and you are in Texas, people want to know why not?
Spaniolo might have to answer that question sooner than later. If he does not, his school could end up being left in the dust by institutions that it has considered athletic and academic rivals for decades.