Southland Ultimatum The First Shot Fired in NCAA Realignment?
by, 06-04-2010 at 05:57 PM (2538 Views)
After months of speculation since UT-San Antonio [url=http://www.collegesportingnews.com/entry.php?31-UTSA-Throws-Curveball-Announces-FBS-Plan]announced that they were bypassing the Southland Conference[/url] as a football-playing institution, the jury of peers that is the SLC has made their judgment.
At the recently completed SLC meetings held in Galveston, Texas - the league decided that all members [url=http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com/log/index.php/2010/06/04/southland-conference-redefines-sports-sp?blog=2]must participate in SLC sports for which they sponsor[/url].
Despite the league-issued press release not mentioning the intent of the legislation, the 11-1 vote in favor of the change brings to a close an issue that started with Louisiana-Monroe and reared its head once more with UTSA.
The rule does not force conference members to add the league sports in which they do not sponsor, but clearly states that any new sports must compete under the SLC umbrella, if they are league sponsored.
So, where does UTSA go from here?
The options are as clear as day. In an article that came out in the [url=http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/southland_hits_utsa_with_ultimatum_on_football_95646329.html]San Antonio Express-News[/url], athletic director Lynn Hickey specified what we all knew.
1) join the SLC in football
2) leave the conference and operate as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) independent in football and a Division I independent in all sports
3) join another conference, preferably with FBS football.
With conference realignment at the forefront of college athletics, was this the first shot fired in what could be a domino effect?
While the epicenter that league commissioner Tom Burnett spoke of recently as it relates to conference realignment starts when schools in the Big 10, Pac-10 and Big 12 begin to move around, this truly was the first definitive move.
UTSA received an ultimatum from their current conference and must respond. Their response in this writer's opinion will be to leave the SLC for a new conference home.
This is not a move that UTSA will take lightly, in fact it is one that the school has prepared for over the last few months, if not years. After all, In collegiate athletics, you can not think about tomorrow without thinking about five, 10 years away.
Anyone that knows anything about collegiate athletics know that being an independent is not the best move.
Not only does it take away the opportunity to playing for a conference title, it also makes it very challenging to make it to postseason play. Of course, we have not even broached the subject of scheduling, which is much more difficult as well, particularly when other schools in the non-revenue sports are in the midst of their conference slate.
For this reason, the need of a new conference home, brings to light why there has been a different approach to a move up to FBS from UTSA than Texas State, though the [url=http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/sports/x1910023508/College-Athletics-States-FBS-drive-slow-compared-to-neighboring-UTSA]San Marcos Daily Record[/url] could not have been more ill-informed of those reasons.
UTSA is a school that wants to be at the top level, but with no football in their background and unlike fellow upstart South Alabama, no FBS conference home to all their sports.
With a blank resume, the Roadrunners had to do things big and do them the right way.
When the school hired Larry Coker as head coach, they made a splash. This was a splash that could have probably been picked up by a satellite in outer space. All the national media covered the hiring of Coker and it has led to continued coverage of the program, just as hiring Bill Curry did for Georgia State.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, UTSA could have approached their hiring in much the same way Lamar did. The Cardinals, who will hit the field in 2010, hired junior college head coach Ray Woodard, who was not exactly the "sexy" pick that even those in Beaumont were wanting for a splash out of the gate.
Back in San Antonio, Hickey may very well have been doing belly flops off the high board as the splashes continued to come, notably with the addition of Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas State, Colorado State, Baylor and Houston to future schedules. The school is reportedly also discussing games with Oklahoma State and Air Force, among others.
These additions not only show that UTSA is serious about football, it shows conferences that may be interested in the Roadrunners, that they will put together one of the best schedules a mid-major could have. Of course, it surely does not hurt being in the football hotbed of Texas.
The work is not limited to football, though football does turn on the ignition to the car, which will drive UTSA towards a conference.
Hickeys work continues as UTSA is in negotiation with the San Antonio Missions, a AA baseball club regarding a [url=http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/missions_and_utsa_talk_about_teaming_up_94678639.html?c=y&commentSubmitted=y#comments]joint stadium venture for baseball[/url].
The school also has plans for further upgrades on campus to athletic venues, including some joint efforts with the local school district for an arena - an upgrade over their Convocation Center on campus.
Hickey is well-respected in collegiate athletics, particularly this region. If there is anyone to direct UTSA moving forward, the Roadrunners probably have one of the best people they could potentially have at the helm.
The only change for Hickey and her school in wake of todays decision is that time is of the essence and it is even more critical to find a new home sooner than later.