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UTSA Plans To Join SLC In 2013
UTSA has made no secret of its desire to field a major-college football program.
In the meantime, baby steps.
Following two years as an independent in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), the Roadrunners are tentatively slated to join the Southland Conference in 2013.
“I think it’s pretty much set,” UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said.
“We have agreed to put them in beginning in 2013,” SLC commissioner Tom Burnett said. “We don’t have (dates) yet, but hopefully we will lock those in soon.”
The Roadrunners would be eligible to compete immediately for the conference championship, which brings an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
UTSA’s entry into the SLC will be preceded by two independent seasons. The schedule for 2011 is “pretty much done,” Hickey said, while 2012 is still being formed.
“It’s a good schedule, maybe a little bit tougher than we wanted,” Hickey said.
Though Hickey declined to reveal UTSA’s opponents, Coker said the Roadrunners are currently lined up for 10 games in 2011 — six of which will be played at the Alamodome. Up to two more games could be added, he said.
“There’s still some uncertainty, but that’s the way it’s looking,” Coker said. “The home games are pretty solid.”
Coker also wouldn’t identify UTSA’s foes. He has mentioned Georgia State, a fellow startup program that begins play next fall, as a strong possibility in previous interviews.
UTSA’s initial timeline had called for estimated entry into the SLC in 2012. That changed after the hiring of Coker, who wanted two full seasons, and three recruiting campaigns, before joining the league.
“You’d like to have at least a couple of years to recruit before you start in conference,” Coker said. “We’re looking forward to ‘13, but hopefully we’ll build during that time and be ready to compete.”
How the extra independent season will impact UTSA’s bid to join the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) remains to be seen.
The Roadrunners would have to pay a six-figure penalty for leaving the SLC without providing two years’ notice.
As such, they might not be able to make the jump until 2015 at the earliest — provided, of course, they can earn a conference invitation, which will hinge on a multitude of factors, which include operating budget, infrastructure, fan support, media coverage and overall program quality.
When, or even if, that invitation might come is anyone’s guess at this early stage.
“Time-wise, I just don’t know,” Hickey said. “I don’t have a crystal ball. Is the potential there? I think this is an unbelievable spot. What we can accomplish here is a great, great thing.
“But it won’t happen overnight. I’ve already given 10 years of my life to this. It might take another 10. But the decision-making so far has been very, very sound.”
For reference, Florida Atlantic and South Florida — both of which UTSA has used as models for its program — didn’t join the NCAA’s top flight until their sixth and seventh seasons, respectively.
Even if it takes that long, Coker said he has every intention of seeing the job through.
“It’s going to be a process, and I knew that coming in,” he said. “I didn’t get into this for instant gratification. I’m prepared to be here for the long haul. That’s the only way to do this. Lynn knows that; I know that.”
Until then, the SLC is prepared to offer the Roadrunners a home for as long as they need one.
“We don’t begrudge anyone’s ambitions,” Burnett said. “Who wouldn’t want to be in the best possible operation you can be, and add to that?
“I think the reality of it is, though, there’s only one conference in America making plans for UTSA football, and that’s the Southland Conference.”
By Dan McCarney, San Antonio Express-News