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Photograph by JEFF HUEHN, UTSA ATHLETICS

Featured: Eric Soza, the first quarterback for the University of Texas at San Antonio, which set a record for the highest-attended game, with an attendance of 56,743, for an NCAA Division 1 FSC start-up program on September 3, 2011 at the Alamodome.

Photograph by JEFF HUEHN, UTSA ATHLETICS

Fresh from announcing the selection of a football feasibility consultant group, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is set on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, to hold the second meeting of a 22-member, blue-panel committee that will help determine the possibility of a college football team being created for UTRGV, which is the state’s largest public university south of San Antonio. The location and time of the meeting, which will be closed to the public, and the agenda for UTRGV’s football feasibility study committee will be announced at a later date by university officials. But the selection of College Sports Solutions, LLC, to conduct the university’s football feasibility study is sure to be among the top items to be discussed when the special UTRGV advisory panel meets later this month.

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As UTRGV announces $100,000 hiring of football consultants, blue-ribbon committee studying issue to hold its second meeting on Wednesday, July 13

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Fresh from announcing the selection of a football feasibility consultant group, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is set on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, to hold the second meeting of a 22-member, blue-panel committee that will help determine the possibility of a college football team being created for UTRGV, which is the state’s largest public university south of San Antonio.

The location and time of the meeting, which will be closed to the public, and the agenda for UTRGV’s football feasibility study committee will be announced at a later date by university officials.

But the selection of College Sports Solutions, LLC, to conduct the university’s football feasibility study is sure to be among the top items to be discussed when the special UTRGV advisory panel meets later this month.

In a brief advisory issued on Thursday, June 30, 2016, Patrick Gonzáles, UTRGV Assistant Vice President of University Marketing and Communications, reported that College Sports Solutions “will work with the football feasibility committee, which is being chaired by legendary football coach Mack Brown, to develop a recommendation to UTRGV Director of Athletics Chris King. King will then make the final recommendation to President Guy Bailey.”

Also according to Gonzáles, College Sports Solutions will take into account all factors in this feasibility study, including support in the community, potential infrastructure and funding models, and NCAA requirements for football programs at both the FCS and FBS levels. UTRGV will pay the consultant group $100,000 for the overall study, which includes travel expenses.

“We’re happy to get this next step in the process completed, and we look forward to the collaboration between College Sports Solutions and the football feasibility committee,” King said. “This consultant group has extensive experience in this area and has conducted similar studies for other athletics programs.”

UTRGV first announced in February its football feasibility study, which is a subset of the university’s founding strategic and master plans that are currently being developed, Gonzáles added. In April, UTRGV announced the football feasibility committee, which is comprised of university staff, faculty and students, community leaders, and special advisers.

Brown, the former football Head Coach of the Texas Longhorns, and Oliver Luck, Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for the NCAA, on Thursday, May 19, 2016, brought their experiences and insights to the Valley for the first meeting of UTRGV’s Football Feasibility Study Committee, which was held at the Edinburg university campus.

Brown and Luck’s perspectives are available online at:

Football, nation’s most popular college sport, has potential to increase UTRGV enrollment and revenue, and unify athletics and academics, say committee leaders Mack Brown and Oliver Luck

COLLEGE SPORTS SOLUTIONS JUST COMPLETED FOOTBALL FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY

College Sports Solutions involvement at UTRGV comes less than a month after that group completed one of its latest football feasibility studies, which it conducted for Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas.

According to Wikipedia, Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, is located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River. Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area. In July 2015, the estimated population of the Wichita metropolitan area was 644,610, and that of the larger Wichita-Winfield combined statistical area was 680,398, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of July 2015, the estimated population of the state of Kansas was almost 3 million.

By comparison, also according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Hidalgo County as of July 2015 was 842,304. Adding the estimated populations, as of July 2015, of Cameron County (422,156), Starr County (63,795), and Willacy County (21,903), more than 1.3 million people reside in the four-county region primarily served by UTRGV.

According to Wichita State University, that higher education center is an urban university that was founded in 1895 as a Congregational college and received university status in 1926. Wichita State University now awards associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In the fall of 2015, it had a student enrollment of about 15,000.

In a press release issued in March 2016, produced by UTRGV Senior Writer Gail Fagan, UTRGV’s fall 2015 enrollment 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.

The enrollment figures, made available from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Fall 2015 Online Accountability System, also shows that UTRGV ranks No. 1 in total Hispanic enrollment among all four-year, public higher education institutions in Texas.

“These numbers are a good indication that the creation of UTRGV was good for the region,” said Susan Brown, Assistant Vice President for UTRGV Office of Strategic Analysis and Institutional Reporting and the former Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Funding for the THECB. “We are hoping that these numbers will continue to increase as we expand opportunities and more students understand that they can get a first-rate education in the Valley.”

WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY LAST FIELDED FOOTBALL TEAM 30 YEARS AGO

In late 1986, Wichita State University’s football program was ended by campus leaders, who said financial problems and lack of support from the public led to that decision, according to the Wichita Eagle newspaper.

But in early 2016, university leaders wanted to reexamine the pros and cons of bringing back college football 30 years later.

According to a Wichita State University news release issued on Monday, June 27, 2016, the university administration announced that it had received and publicly released a 69-page study from the College Sports Solutions consulting firm about the costs and processes of returning intercollegiate football to Wichita State.

The study begins:

“College Sports Solutions (CSS) was engaged by Wichita State University (WSU) in February of 2016 to conduct a comprehensive benchmarking study to assist WSU in analyzing the feasibility of bringing back the sport of intercollegiate football, a sport discontinued by the University in 1986. Specific focus is placed herein on the financial aspects of such an endeavor, with analysis of estimated revenues and expenses. Also included is a suggested timeline for possible reinstatement of the sport and specific case studies. The analysis addresses possible reinstatement of the sport at both the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) levels.”

Interim Athletic Director Darron Boatright said coming months will be spent analyzing the study and assessing the level of support from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community in bringing football back to Wichita State.

“We are appreciative of College Sports Solutions for working with us and helping us look at ways to improve Wichita State Athletics,” Boatright said. “We are making the results public because we want transparency in this whole process with our fans, supporters, community and student-athletes. We will take into consideration the results of the study and next determine how we want to proceed to keep Wichita State moving forward.”

ISSUES BEING CONSIDERED BY WICHITA STATE THAT UTRGV STUDY MAY ADDRESS

Although details of the College Sports Solutions study at UTRGV have not yet been released, the issues addressed by that consulting group at Wichita State University may provide some additional insights.

In its executive summary to Wichita State University, College Sports Solutions noted that its work is provided “as a guide to the information, research, analysis, and recommendations contained in this report. The CSS team was impressed with and thanks President John Bardo, Athletic Director Darron Boatright, and their staffs for the professionalism, knowledge, transparency, and enthusiasm, shown throughout this review. There is clearly a passion for the University and its athletic programs from the people, the students, and the community. There is also universal nationwide acknowledgment of and respect for the success of Shocker Athletics both competitively and financially.”

Other key highlights from its Wichita State University football feasibility study by College Sports Solutions include:

If WSU decides to pursue the reinstatement of football there are two clear competitive options. The first is to bring the program back at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. The second is to bring it back at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. The processes and procedures mandated by the NCAA for such reinstatement are similar in many ways. The two subdivisions though are substantially different, particularly in the areas of financial aid and operational costs. A reinstatement of football at the FBS level will require an invitation from an existing conference.

(FCS stands for Football Championship Subdivision, made up of independent NCAA Division 1, four-year institutions whose football programs are not part of a football conference. FCS football teams in Texas are: Abilene Christian University; Houston Baptist University; University of the Incarnate Word; Lamar University; Prairie View A&M University; Sam Houston State University; Stephen F. Austin State University; and Texas Southern University. There are 125 FCS programs in the nation for the 2016 season, according to the NCAA.)

(FBS is the acronym for Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly the D-1A teams. FBS teams play bowl games after their conference championships. FBS football teams in Texas are Baylor University; University of Houston; North Texas State University; Rice University; Southern Methodist University; Texas Christian University; The University of Texas at Austin; Texas A&M University; Texas State University; Texas Tech University; The University of Texas at El Paso; and The University of Texas at San Antonio. As of 2014, there are 10 conferences and 128 schools in the FBS, according to Wikipedia.)

The Wichita State University football feasibility study by College Sports Solutions adds:

• We do not recommend an attempt to play football independently at either level, as the operational difficulties, particularly with scheduling, present additional issues that can become problematic both as to management and resources.

• If the decision is made to invest in the reinstatement of football, we suggest immediate and ongoing discussions with potential conferences as to their interest in WSU as a football-playing member. Our findings herein are based on an assumption of inclusion in an existing conference.

• There will be initial start-up/one-time costs to reinstate football at either the FCS or FBS level. Those will include items such as stadium renovations/improvements, practice facilities, locker rooms, coaches’ and support staff offices, academic areas, strength and conditioning areas, training and medical areas, NCAA and conference assessments.There will also be annual ongoing expenses. Those include compensation for coaches’ and additional support staff, grants-in-aid phased in over a period of years, stadium and facility maintenance, and annual operational costs that include team travel, recruiting, academic services, training and medical services, strength and conditioning services, etc.

• Finally, there are substantive Title IX implications relative to the reinstatement of football. The addition of from 100 to 120 male student-athletes will of course change considerably the female to male ratios of the current student-athlete population. The addition of that number of males will likely necessitate the addition of one or more additional women’s intercollegiate sports in the future. This will require further study and a definitive strategic plan.

The entire study of Wichita State University’s college football program is available online at:

http://webs.wichita.edu/depttools/depttoolsmemberfiles/wsunews/wsu_football_report_css_2016.pdf

MEMBERS, UTRGV FOOTBALL FEASIBILITY STUDY COMMITTEE

In addition to Brown and Luck, the Football Feasibility Study Committee, whose membership was announced by UTRGV officials on Sunday, April 24, 2016, 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;
Verónica 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; and
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; and
The Honorable Rose Vela, Attorney at Law.

Special advisors

Mike Vollmar, Senior Associate Director for Football Administration, University of Tennessee; former Director, Football Operations at the University of Alabama, University of Michigan and Michigan State University; and
Alan Marks, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs & Athletics Counsel, University of Texas System.

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Patrick Gonzáles and Gail Fagan contributed to this story.

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