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UTSA athletic director says Saturday kickoff 'surreal'
UTSA is kicking-off their first collegiate football season with their inaugural game Saturday, September 3 at San Antonio’s Alamodome.
I wondered how the university got to this point, and how UTSA staff was able to create such a buzz around Roadrunner football.
Lynn Hickey is the athletic director for UTSA. Hickey agreed to answer a few of my questions about Roadrunners football, preparing for the season, the future of UTSA football and the shake-up with the Big 12.
Here are her responses.
VAUGHN: The inaugural football season is right around the corner. How are you feeling going into the final days before kick-off?
HICKEY: We are very excited. Right now it almost seems surreal – hard to believe it is really coming to fruition. So it may not really hit me until we kick off. We are of course nervous - - first game – but also feeling very blessed for the momentum we have and for the way the campus and community have seemed to embrace the program. I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude - - seeing how everyone has pulled together and for the opportunity I have had at UTSA. We will have cheers and tears on Saturday. Nothing like making history!
VAUGHN: Where do you hope to be with the football program in 5 years? Ten years?
HICKEY: We are very confident that we have the same potential to build a competitive DI FBS program - - not unlike South Florida and Boise State. Fifteen years ago South Florida was UTSA. If Tampa can support a team I know that San Antonio can. And we are not competing against a hometown NFL team. We are very fortunate to have an opportunity to play in the Alamodome, but we need a practice facility for the team. How quickly we have success will be based on how well we can continue to recruit, and the facility piece will be a big part of that. Our biggest priority has to be building our athletic complex, having those facilities will help all of our sports recruit to a new level. We are fortunate to be in the WAC beginning next year – gaining that invitation solved a lot of our problems. Upon completion of the new facilities we believe that we can be the Texas Tech/Houston/Baylor of San Antonio.
VAUGHN: A tremendous amount to city/UTSA spirit has evolved from the new football season. How did you cultivate that? What do you attribute that to?
HICKEY: We have a wonderful young campus that has a great vision. Our students set a high standard in 2003 by initiating a student fee for athletics – basically taxing themselves to help build our program. Their example helped to bring the alumni and business leaders on board. Dr. Romo is a great leader and as he developed his strategic plan for the university it became evident that our vision was in sync with that plan. He and his administrative staff have done a wonderful job in helping us move our plans forward and to be accepted on campus by faculty and staff.
We have a great plan - - vision. We have worked very hard to “preach” about it and have been fortunate to have significant leaders get on board with us. Every time we have reached a new goal more people have become comfortable with our plan and become “believers” with us. San Antonio is a great city that understands what “family” is. The collaboration that we have received from the city and county is outstanding - - do not know if there is another city in the country that has shown this kind of support.
We also have a campus and a city that is hungry for football. We live in South Texas, the only major city in America that does not have DI football or an NFL team, and we have a domed stadium. Put on top of that the growth of UTSA - 30,000-plus students with a desire to be a tier one research institution. So you need campus life. In my mind adding football was a “no brainer!”
VAUGHN: The Big 12 is struggling to survive after losing three universities in Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M. As a former coach (with Kansas State and Texas A&M) how are you feeling about the current state of the league?
HICKEY: I got to coach in two great leagues – the Big Eight and the Southwest Conference. But toward the end of the Southwest Conference it was becoming evident that we needed to think bigger and make a change. As an administrator at Texas A&M, I had the opportunity to work on the planning and implementation of the Big 12. It was a great experience in pulling that many great universities together to form a new league. So I am sorry to see the disruption – but once again the landscape has changed, and each school has to position itself for the good of their program. It is going to be interesting to see if this latest move by A&M starts everything moving again nationally – or if we stay in a holding pattern for awhile. The Big 12 - -even without A&M - - is still a very good conference. There are a lot of schools that will want to join them - - but it will be interesting to see what else the SEC does, and then watch moves by the Big 10, PAC 12, Big East, and ACC. The Conference situation is very competitive. Programs are trying to increase resources and that is determined largely by football and television markets.
I am very glad that we have a good home with the WAC for this gives us security and a chance to continue to grow our program. It is very obvious that “positioning” your program is very important in this changing landscape. Our affiliation with the WAC and our business plan will allow us to survive.
By Jeff Vaughn, KENS5