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Photograph Courtesy of UTRGV ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT

A football feasibility study committee, chaired by legendary coach Mack Brown, will hold an organizational meeting on Thursday, May 19, 2016 during a time and location to be announced later by officials with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

Photograph Courtesy of UTRGV ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT

“College football has a positive economic impact on a region in many ways, such as through the millions of dollars that would be generated from thousands of visitors coming to the Valley for the games and related activities,” said Canales. “It also is a tremendous marketing tool for UTRGV, which is one of the best universities in Texas in terms of its proud reputation in academics and sports. Football generates excitement on and off the field.”

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UTRGV football feasibility committee to hold its first meeting on May 19, announces Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A football feasibility study committee, chaired by legendary coach Mack Brown, will hold an organizational meeting on Thursday, May 19, 2016 during a time and location to be announced later by officials with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

The Edinburg campus of UTRGV, which includes a medical school, is located in the heart of Canales’ House District 40.

The football feasibility study committee that will meet on Thursday, May 19, is comprised of university staff, faculty, students, community leaders and special advisors.

The university is in the process of developing its founding strategic and master plans, and UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the football feasibility study is a subset of those plans.

“According to a top UTRGV leader, this committee is simply an advisory committee. It is not establishing policy or making decisions for UTRGV, but it is very important because they will be evaluating the pros, cons and requirements necessary for UTRGV to have a successful football program,” said Canales. “Under a timeline to be established by the university, the committee will eventually issue advisory recommendations to UTRGV Athletic Director Chris King.”

King will then make the final recommendation to President Guy Bailey, according to UTRGV officials.

Canales said he supports the creation of a college football team, and looked forward to hearing the ideas of the feasibility study committee.

“College football has a positive economic impact on a region in many ways, such as through the millions of dollars that would be generated from thousands of visitors coming to the Valley for the games and related activities,” said Canales. “It also is a tremendous marketing tool for UTRGV, which is one of the best universities in Texas in terms of its proud reputation in academics and sports. Football generates excitement on and off the field.”

A football program would allow Valley athletes more opportunities to earn a college degree from a prestigious university while continuing with their dreams of playing big-league ball, the state lawmaker added.

“College football at UTRGV would also result in the formation of a marching band and many related student activities, and most likely, it would help in the creation of more sports programs for women in the name of equal opportunities for all of our athletes,” Canales said.

He noted that the University of Texas-Permian Basin, located in Odessa, will launch their first college football team this fall.

“In October 2014, UT-Permian Basin, which is much smaller in enrollment that UTRGV, received approval from the UT System to field a football team beginning this September,” Canales reported. “They recently held their first spring football game, which was received with outstanding support by their community.”

Back in Edinburg, UTRGV’s athletic director explained that the work of the football feasibility committee will help in deciding if starting a football program is possible for UTRGV.

“This committee will certainly play a key role in that decision, and we have comprised an impressive group that will make the best choice for UTRGV and the entire Rio Grande Valley,” King said when the advisory panel was first announced on Friday, February 19, 2016. “UTRGV thanks them in advance for their service.”

As former president of the University of Alabama and Texas Tech University, Bailey, who is UTRGV’s first president, has extensive exposure to major college football programs.

“As we work on our strategic and master plans, it is important that we examine all aspects of our future. This is an ideal time for our university to explore the possibility of bringing college football to the Rio Grande Valley,” the UTRGV president said.

The committee will work with the consultants chosen to conduct the feasibility study.

“Starting the process for a football feasibility study is a major step forward in our goal to elevate UTRGV athletics,” said King. “It is important that this study take into account all factors, including support in the community, potential infrastructure and funding models, and NCAA requirements for football programs at both the FCS and FBS levels. We are excited that the Mack Brown will use his extensive experience to guide us through this study.”

Brown has been involved with college football as both a player and coach since 1969. He served as head coach at Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985-87) and North Carolina (1988-97), but he is best known for his stint with the University of Texas (1998-2013), where he won a national championship in 2005 and played for another in 2009. Brown retired in 2013 and now serves as a Special Assistant to the Men’s Athletics Director and President at The University of Texas, and as a college football analyst for ABC and ESPN.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been selected to lead this committee,” Brown said. “The opportunity to build a college football program from the ground up is unique, and I’m excited to be involved in the process. I know there are many passionate football fans in the Rio Grande Valley, and I can’t think of a better place to launch a college football program.”

The feasibility committee is made up of the following individuals:

University members:

Alberto Adame, UTRGV Student Government Association Representative
Michael Aldape, Program Coordinator, Early College
Dr. Janna Arney, Vice President for Operations, Chief of Staff
Dr. Alberto Dávila, Professor, Economics
Alondra Galván, UTRGV Student Government Association Representative
Veronica Gonzáles, Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations
Dr. Paul Sale, Faculty Athletics Representative
Julia Pérez, Vice President, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Women’s Tennis Student-Athlete
Lew Stallworth, Men’s Basketball Student-Athlete

Community members:

Alonzo Cantú, UTRGV Foundation Board Member, CEO, Cantú Entertainment Group
Dan Martínez, CEO, Dan Martínez & Associates LP
David Oliveira, Attorney, Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher, L.L.P.
Val LaMantia Peisen, L & F Distributors, LLC
Dr. Nolan Pérez , MD, Gastroenterology Consultants
Gene Powell, former University of Texas System Board of Regents; CEO, Bitterblue, Inc.; CEO,The Powell
Companies;
Tudor Ulhorn, President, Rio Grande Equipment Co.
Bob Vackar, CEO, Bert Ogden Auto Group
The Honorable Rose Vela, Attorney at Law

Special advisors:

Oliver Luck, Executive Vice President, NCAA; former Director of Athletics, West Virginia University; President and General Manager, Houston Dynamo; former Vice President of Business Development and President and CEO, NFL Europe, former quarterback for West Virginia University and the NFL.

Mike Vollmar, Senior Associate Directo for Football Administration, University of Tennessee; former Director, Football Operations at the University of Alabama, University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

Alan Marks, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs & Athletics Counsel, University of Texas System

UT-PERMIAN BASIN MOST RECENT UT SYSTEM SCHOOL TO SET UP A FOOTBALL PROGRAM

If UTRGV does establish a college football program, it would come soon after UT-Permian Basin successfully petitioned the UT System Board of Regents for their own football program.

In announcing the decision by the UT System regents, Travis Woodward, UTPB’s Director of Communications and Special Projects, provided highlights of the successful efforts by that university, which in the Fall of 2014 had reached a record-high 5,565 students.

By comparison, the Fall 2015 enrollment for UTRGV of 28,584 students makes it the ninth-largest four-year public university in Texas, and the fourth-largest within The University of Texas System.

According to UTPB’s Woodward, in the report he wrote on October 15, 2014:

Athletics has been and is a key part of UTPB’s plan to transform the university from a commuter campus to a more traditional university. Currently, student athletes and student participants involved in athletic-supported activities comprise 13 percent of the full-time undergraduate student population.

Athletics provides a source of community and school spirit. As the only Texas public university west of I-35 that does not play football, UTPB will now be in a more competitive position to attract students from West Texas and the entire state. In addition, academic programs will be expanded and enhanced as the student population demands it.

“I am extremely proud of the way West Texans have stepped up to fund an incredible new chapter in the life of UTPB,” said Kirk Edwards, chairman of the Community Advisory Committee. “Without community support and enthusiasm, this project could not have become a reality.”

“The addition of football will change the face of our institution, making this school a more attractive option for students seeking a full and traditional university experience and it will serve as an impetus for growth in our undergraduate student population,“ said Steve Aicinena, Athletic Director for UTPB. “I am thankful to President David Watts, Kirk Edwards and so many others for investing their time and financial resources. Without their contributions, UTPB football would not be on the horizon. There is much to do is a short amount of time before we kick off in fall of 2016. I look forward to the challenges this new program will bring and toward this new chapter in the history of UTPB.”

UTPB developed a 10-year Strategic Plan for the period of 2009-2019 with the intent to increase enrollment beyond 8,000 students by 2020. The newly approved football program directly supports this plan. In addition, new athletic staff and facilities will be added to support the new program.

Watts praised the groups that have moved the football initiative forward in record time.

“The vision and leadership of the Board of Regents, UT System officers, and community leaders, like Kirk Edwards made this happen,” Watts said. “This is an exciting opportunity for our students and our community.”

“A football program at UTPB will truly transform campus life for future students and West Texans,” added Edwards. “We have a rich lore in football within the Permian Basin and it will be fantastic to see our area kids continue their football careers here at UTPB.”

“The addition of a marching band and related student activities will also allow for a more personal experience for many more students than in the past,” Watts noted.

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Marci Caltabiano, Patrick Gonzáles, and Travis Woodward contributed to this story. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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