Finally football?


You’ve seen the Paisano ads; you’ve heard the off-hand comments and maybe even read the news articles. It is true: football is coming closer to becoming a reality at UTSA.

Recently, UTSA alumnus Steve Bearman donated $50,000 to the university to fund a feasibility report for UTSA football. Bearman, who graduated from UTSA in 1989, designated the donation for the study on adding football to the athletics department at UTSA.

“I want UTSA to become a premier university,” Bearman said. “I am a true believer that having a good athletics program can only enhance your academic degree.”

Community groups have explored the possibility of a UTSA football team though steps have never been taken to file a complete report. In the spring of 2002, UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey and Joe McKinney, vice president of development at Broadway bank, chaired a committee to explore the feasibility of football at UTSA.

At that time the committee found that the university would spend about $2 million in start-up costs. According to Brad Parrott, UTSA’s director of marketing at the time, the university wanted to answer questions about when football would possibly be coming to UTSA.

Even though the report was significant in identifying a number of key issues, David Gabler, assistant vice president for university communications, said that a comprehensive study has yet to be done.

“A full-fledged, bring-in-a-third party company, which specializes in sports marketing management issues-no I don’t think that has ever happened at UTSA,” Gabler said.

According to Rosalie Ambrosino, vice president for student affairs, a number of students, organizations and community members have been asking whether UTSA would have a football team. She also said there has been a significant increase in enthusiasm from groups on campus and within the community. Dr. Ricardo Romo, president of UTSA has agreed the way to start thinking about football is to do a feasibility study.

“This is not a study about whether UTSA should have football or not,” Ambrosino explained. “This is a study about whether we should even have a conversation about whether UTSA should have football.”

Among other things, the report will thoroughly examine the community support UTSA football will get; what kind of practice and game-day facilities will be needed; what kind of scholarships will be required and what liabilities UTSA should know about.

“The study will also look institutions in Texas and across the country that have considered whether or not they can do football and look at the cost involved and the challenges they faced and how those relate to UTSA,” David Gabler, said.

The office of vice president for student affairs is managing the study, rather than the athletics department, to avoid any conflict of interest issues. However, an outside company will actually conduct the study.

According to Gabler, start-up costs for a football team can range from $5-$10 million. Each subsequent year costs could increase from $1-$2 million to maintain a football team. “These are only estimates, but again, the report will give us an exact cost,” Gabler explained. That money would have to come from somewhere. “To have a football team at UTSA we cannot use either state appropriations or tuition money,” Gabler said. “It is important that people know that.”

Another important facet of the report will be facility costs, whether to use an existing stadium or build a new one. For example, if UTSA chose to use the Alamodome, the report will look at the leasing, concession and parking costs. It will consider whether students and the community will be willing to pay to park at the dome to watch UTSA football.

The study will look not only at facility costs but also at costs of scholarships, coaches’ salaries, equipment, team travel and game day as well as practice expenses.

The NCAA has certain requirements for Division I-A and I-AA football teams. In order to be considered a Division I-A team, the university must average 15,000 in actual game attendance in a three-year period. For I-A, the university must also provide 75 scholarships a year, while I-AA requires 53 scholarships. The NCAA is also concerned about football programs that are not breaking even, so there may be further changes in their policies and requirements for football programs and the number required in attendance.

The NCAA requires a specific number of coaches, trainers and support staff for athletic teams. I-A football teams are allowed, but limited to one head coach, nine assistant coaches, and two graduate assistant coaches. I-AA are allowed, but limited to 11 coaches of any type for football.

From a Title IX standpoint, UTSA would have to add scholarships equally for other programs to keep even with football. “We have many student athletes who are not fully funded with scholarships. So if we are going to bring football scholarships in, we need to make sure we have scholarships for them in place,” Ambrosino said.

So, the next step for the office of vice president for student affairs is to finish reviewing and then approve the request for proposal (RFP). From there, the proposal will go to President Romo for revisions and approval, then to the office of general counsel at the UT system for a final sign-off. After the proposal is approved by the UT system, the RFP will be put out for company bids to complete the study.

After all bids are received, UTSA will review them and select the company based on cost, scope and reputation.

“We will want lots of student input in this. There will be student surveys and focus groups,” Ambrosino said. “And one of the things I will be looking at is how whoever comes in for the RFP will be involving students in this process.”

Gabler and Ambrosino expect to have the results of the report during the summer, though it could be pushed back depending on delays or value of input. Both Gabler and Ambrosino noted that if there was not enough time to get sufficient student feedback, the report would not be addressed until student input could be considered.

“If it is going to be done right, we will probably be getting a report by the beginning of the fall semester,” Ambrosino said.

Students should realize that this study is not to decide whether UTSA will add a football program, but to decide if it is worth talking about from a number of different standpoints. “We want to do this very carefully,” Ambrosino said.