UTSA Throws Curveball - Announces FBS Plan
by, 01-31-2010 at 10:39 AM (9216 Views)
Just when you thought most of the discussion this off-season would strictly circulate around new coaches, recruiting and the Southland Conference efforts to land the Division I title game, UTSA completely veered the off-season chatter in a new direction.
UTSA, which plans to play their first season of intercollegiate football in 2011, announced through the [url=http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/college/local_colleges/UTSA_now_plans_to_go_it_alone_in_football.html]San Antonio Express-News[/url] that they will not play in the SLC as expected in 2013.
Instead, athletic director Lynn Hickey plans to oversee a program that will fast track to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Hickey's staff is not going at this recklessly as some may counter.
UTSA has thoroughly investigated and researched the start up for the University of South Florida, who fast-tracked to the FBS level and currently plays in the Big East. Other schools who have fast-tracked the sport in five years to the highest level from the start-up include Florida Atlantic, Florida International and UAB.
New Roadrunners head coach Larry Coker probably put it best as it pertains to UTSA's change of heart and the SLC.
As the process went on, it became clear that we didnt want to be constantly looking over our shoulder, looking for a way out, Coker told the San Antonio Express-News. We have a lot of respect for them, so we tried to take them into account.
Under the current time frame, UTSA would be a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) independent in 2011 and 2012 with playoff eligibility, before beginning the transition up. The school would be bowl eligible as a full FBS independent in 2015.
To fill their schedule, the Roadrunners will not have the same advantages as prestigious academic institutions and current independents - Navy, Army and Notre Dame. However, the school will not be devoid of opposition, as the same article states that UTSA has had talks with over 20 FBS member institutions.
The location of the school, coupled with playing in the Alamodome and the school's willingness to play home-and-home arrangements with regional foes, will probably bode well for UTSA in scheduling.
The biggest question right now is whether or not UTSA will have a place in the conference as an all-sports member. That decision may not be determined until early June, when the presidents of the league convene for their annual meetings in Galveston.
League commissioner Tom Burnett addressed the subject in the San Antonio paper.
An administrator at another school told me, If our football isnt good enough for them, then why in the world would their basketball, baseball and track be important to us? Burnett said.
The SLC member institutions are very protective of their hand in the NCAA pot of money and if the league member institutions feel the membership of UTSA weighs heavily on their football involvement, then the program could be out of luck.
The league has previously had a FBS member playing in all-sports when Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) left the league as a football member in 1993.
ULM eventually joined the Sun Belt Conference as a football member in 2001 after some time as a Division I-A Independent. ULM completely withdrew from the SLC ahead of the 2006-07 season.
Whether the league feels going forward that this is the right move will set a precedent for future dealings with other schools that may feel the need to move their program to FBS.
A quick glance at the league bylaws lead one to believe that the earliest UTSA could be expelled from the league is July 1, 2012. Schools have a two-year window once they announce a move and a decision on this matter should come to a head this summer at the league meetings.
Since we are tracking previous models, both South Florida and UAB maintained membership in all-sports in Conference USA while as a football independent.
One of the other questions in the discussion is whether or not UTSA made this move recklessly?
If anything, this was the first step of a previously foreseen move to FBS. With the moratorium coming to an end in the near future, UTSA has now positioned themselves as ready and able to join a conference at the FBS level.
Whether UTSA has outreached to the Sun Belt, Western Athletic Conference or Conference USA is not known publicly. These leagues are seen as the most likely destinations for a Roadrunners program that could take full advantage of a domino effect expected to occur amongst major conferences in the next 2-3 years.
The only true drawback and a large one as we mentioned above is whether UTSA will lose their all-sports membership. Without a conference home, the school will be in a somewhat more difficult situation of finding a more permanent home for all of its sports, with any lapse in conference membership potentially limiting the school's ability for NCAA post-season berths.
Where do we go from here?
The SLC has not had a proper chance to look into the decision by UTSA and reviewed it from all angles possible.
Though Hickey had informal discussions with other member institutions in the league about her plans, until she formally made the decision, it could not be thoroughly analyzed by the conference.
The league athletic directors and presidents are also on a fast track, with June's league meetings as the possible next date of interest. Then again, UTSA could dictate the schedule themselves as they most certainly have this time.
For now, we will just sit and wait on the sidelines, while attempting to avoid any talk of expansion just yet. As information becomes available, you can find it here.