Drive Stalled? Hardly. TXST Fueling the Engine
by, 02-08-2010 at 06:07 PM (2236 Views)
Whether Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) fans are going to appreciate it or not, a large part of this blog - especially during the football off-season - will focus on the happenings of several schools who are in the process or closely examining a move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
To ignore the events is to ignore what could shape up to be the bricks and mortar of what the Southland Conference (SLC) becomes over the next five, 10, 15 years.
This blog is and will remain about the SLC.
Though the on-going battle between Frisco and Chattanooga will also receive time in these blogs as news becomes available, the most predominant story of today and the day's moving forward reside in Texas, whether that be San Antonio, San Marcos and potentially - Beaumont, Huntsville and Nacogdoches.
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In wake of all that is happening in the SLC, one thing is certain - UTSA is on the move.
The school that is watching the activity in San Antonio also resides on I-35, that being Texas State. It is relatively easy for one to acknowledge that the pressure is clearly on TXST.
UTSA has a vision of where they want to be and have some ways to go before the vision is realized. Many of the pieces to the vision have yet to formally develop.
TXST brings a more cautious approach to the table.
In San Marcos, the TXST athletic department is trying to put the pieces in place to make sure they can succeed. Not just in establishing their programs at the top of the SLC - which most of them are - but for when they reach the next level.
To be attractive to a conference, it will take at least three things:
1) Athletic success
3) Fan, Community Support
Academics are a large part of the equation as well, since we are discussing student-athletes.
However, the university's image as an institution is not something that the athletic department is responsible for. The athletic department's only mission in this regard is to bring in coaches and staff that understand the importance of academics to the larger picture that is athletics.
• • •
Athletic success has been achieved at TXST, for the most part.
In Texas, football reigns supreme. In order to achieve a spot at the next level, football will also have to carry the flag high.
At TXST, football has come a long way.
Not since Jim Wacker and to a lesser extent, Dennis Franchione were parading the sidelines, has the football program had the success that the Bobcats have over the last few years, highlighted by a 2005 semifinal appearance.
Since 2005, the team enjoyed another playoff appearance thanks to securing the SLC's automatic bid in 2008. With Brad Wright's contract secured and continued success on the recruiting front, the program looks to add several more playoff runs to the school's count.
The baseball program made the NCAA tournament field as an at-large this past season and the women's sports have typically been some of the strongest in the league. It is not uncommon for the Bobcat soccer, volleyball and softball programs to be in the upper echelon of the SLC.
While the basketball programs do leave some to be desired, most of the house is performing at above average levels in the league they play.
Not just every few years, but more times than not, at a level that is being sustained. This explains the recent action by the school to extend the contracts of most of the head coaches in place, which is important to the sustainability that is sought.
• • •
Facilities are a very large part of the equation and that was addressed in the updated projects page on the [url=http://www.athletics.txstate.edu/thedrive/ourprogress.htm]Drive to FBS[/url] page.
As it pertains to football, TXST is moving forward with relocating the track facility, which down the road will allow for further expansion of Bobcat Stadium as shown in the picture above.
The school is also currently moving forward with steps needed to begin the preliminary design and construction recommendations for the north end zone.
The [url=http://www.txstatebobcats.com/facilities/bobcat-stadium-west-side-complex.html]addition of club and luxury suites[/url] this past season helped bring the Bobcat Stadium experience to all new level. One could easily put the quality of amenities at the facility above or equal to others on the FCS level, as well as those at the FBS level.
The football stadium amenities were only part of a banner year in 2009 as both [url=http://www.txstatebobcats.com/facilities/base-complex-main.html]baseball[/url] and [url=http://www.txstatebobcats.com/facilities/soft-complex-main.html]softball[/url] facilities were upgraded. Further upgrades in the coming years will include those to tennis and soccer.
Clearly, the facility question is being answered and is continuing to be addressed one step at a time.
• • •
All that remains is support.
Fan and community support tends to translate to enhanced media coverage, for which San Marcos is in a bit of a tough spot.
The city resides between Austin and San Antonio. While Austin lives and breathes the University of Texas as far as college sports are concerned, the San Antonio market was devoid of Division I football until UTSA came into the picture.
The school has made tremendous strides in coverage and with Larry Teis announcing that school had secured a San Antonio based public relations firm to assist in promoting the institution and athletics on a regional and national level, greater strides are expected.
"Butts in the seats" (in addition to the aforementioned success) only help the media awareness of the program. As is the case nationally, football ticket sales are key to the effort of putting the school in a strong position to move up.
TXST is coming off the fourth highest average attendance in school history, ranking behind just 1983, 2005 and 2006. The 1983 and 2006 seasons came after two of the most successful seasons in school history with the 2005 campaign ranking as the most successful at the Division I level.
Through information available at the press time, men's basketball average attendance is at 1,590 fans per game with the women pulling in 1,215, good for third and second in the league, respectively.
The community has shown that it will support a winner, as seen by the numbers when the football team has done well.
The key is showing other leagues that the fan base - alumni, community and students alike - can support the program on a consistent basis. Not just in attendance, but as active participants in the fund-raising efforts that can truly distinguish TXST as the "rising star of Texas" that the university touts.
• • •
Though UTSA is willing to go at it alone, TXST is not willing to make the same commitment.
A conference affiliation is the only way that Teis and university president Denise Trauth are willing to pull the trigger. The two university leaders do not want to take the gamble that UTSA is and it is clear why this is the case.
For those questioning the leadership, take this one last note for thought - if it is done like it was in 2000, it may as well not be done at all.
Until a new conference is home is found, TXST will go about doing things they have been for a few years, one that their fans will have to accept - putting the pieces of the puzzle together in a proper manner to best secure the future.