Featured, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg following the Public Affairs Luncheon, which was organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, front row, from left: City Councilmember David Torres; Elva Jackson Garza (Vice President, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.); Cris Torres (Vice President, Greater State Bank); David Salinas (President/CEO, Greater State Bank); Mayor Richard García; Guy Bailey, Ph.D. (President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley); Robert Lozano (Chairman of the Board, Greater State Bank); Agustín Lozano, Jr. (Bert Ogden Dealer Group); and Marty Martin (Rio Valley Realty). Back row, from left: Johnny Rodríguez (Bert Ogden Dealer Group); Mario Lizcano (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance); Jacob De León (Memorial Funeral Home); Sergio González (Rosie’s Flower Shop); Ricardo Hinojosa (Chief Financial Officer, Greater State Bank); Víctor Barbosa (Vice President, Greater State Bank); Claudia Alvarado (Officer, Greater State Bank); James Cano (Senior Vice President, Greater State Bank); Mark Hernández (Senior Vice President, Greater State Bank); and Michael Williamson (PlainsCapital Bank). Greater State Bank was the sponsor of the quarterly event.
Photograph By RONNIE LARRALDE
College football, which is currently being considered for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, could have positive results far beyond the gridiron, according to Guy Bailey, Ph.D., the President of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Bailey, whose extensive professional credentials include serving as president of The University of Alabama and Texas Tech University, which have high-profile football programs, brought up the possible addition of the nation’s most popular college sport to UTRGV during his presentation on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 before a full house in the Hidalgo Banquet Room of the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg. “As we look to grow as a university, we look at the possibility of football, too,” said Bailey, who was the featured speaker for the quarterly Public Affairs Luncheon organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. “There are a number of reasons for having football. If you have been at places with football, you understand it is a galvanizing force for students and for your communities as well. If that happens, you will all understand what impact it will have.”
President Bailey: If college football becomes a reality for University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, “you will all understand what impact it will have”
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
College football, which is currently being considered for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, could have positive results far beyond the gridiron, according to Guy Bailey, Ph.D., the President of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Bailey, whose extensive professional credentials include serving as president of The University of Alabama and Texas Tech University, which have high-profile football programs, brought up the possible addition of the nation’s most popular college sport to UTRGV during his presentation on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 before a full house in the Hidalgo Banquet Room of the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg.
“As we look to grow as a university, we look at the possibility of football, too,” said Bailey, who was the featured speaker for the quarterly Public Affairs Luncheon organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. “There are a number of reasons for having football. If you have been at places with football, you understand it is a galvanizing force for students and for your communities as well. If that happens, you will all understand what impact it will have.”
Bailey’s views on college football in the Valley also are being closely monitored by the Mayor, Edinburg City Council, and Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
The Edinburg EDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Mayor and Edinburg City Council.
The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Rupert as Members.
Mayor Richard García and Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. are not related.
Earlier in the month, during the Thursday, July 21, 2016 ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony of the U.S. Customs & Border Protection facility at the city-owned South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, Mayor García said he, the Edinburg City Council and Edinburg EDC leadership are doing all they can to help determine whether college football can be an economic development success for UTRGV and the region.
“We’re working with the university to try to bring football to our university. Mark my words, that’s going to happen and that’s going to be right here, hopefully,” Mayor García said. “The city just met with the consultants that were hired by UTRGV recently so that they would know our position, the community’s position, and whether they would support that sort of thing.
On June 30, 2016, UTRGV announced it had obtained the services of College Sports Solutions, LLC, to conduct a football feasibility study.
The consultants are working with a 22-member football feasibility committee, which is being chaired by legendary football coach Mack Brown, who led the Texas Longhorns to a national championship in 2005, to develop a recommendation to UTRGV Director of Athletics Chris King. King will then make the final recommendation to Bailey.
From 1998–2013, Brown coached Texas, not only winning the national championship in 2005 but also played for another in 2009. He retired in 2013 and now serves as a special assistant to the men’s athletics director and president at The University of Texas, according to SportsIllustrated.com.
Since retiring, he also serves as a college football analyst for ABC and ESPN.
The UTRGV blue-ribbon panel on football held its most recent gathering on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.
Having previously acknowledged that there is much work yet to be done before determining whether a college football program will become a reality, Bailey further outlined during the Public Affairs Luncheon some of the logic of why it would benefit UTRGV and the Valley.
“For one thing, it is very hard to be in a good athletics conference without it,” the UTRGV president said. “With all the conference realignments, UT-Pan American (the former name of UTRGV) did not have a conference affiliation for 15 years or so. It is very hard to sustain any athletics if you don’t have a conference affiliation.”
In addition, conferences which don’t have football “are always a little shaky,” he continued.
Bailey said at The University of Texas at San Antonio, which began its football program in 2011, the school transformed its public image for the better because it added that sport.
“I was a Provost at UTSA when they started planning football. It you look at the visibility of that institution and how people think about it, how that has changed over the last 20 years,” he said. “You start adding football, you enhance your athletics program.”
H-E-B PARK COULD BE OPTION TO HOST UTRGV FOOTBALL GAMES
A possible home for a UTRGV football team could be the newly-named H-E-B Park, a privately-owned outdoor entertainment venue which features a 9,700-seat soccer-specific stadium, currently under construction. If financial arrangements were to be made between UTRGV and H-E-B Park, that stadium could be expanded to hold 24,000 fixed seats.
Bailey said he recently visited H-E-B Park, located at 1616 S. Raúl Longoria Road, and said he was impressed with the complex.
“As all of you know, soccer has started,” referring to the Edinburg-based Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, a member of the United Soccer League (USL), and which serves as the development affiliate of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. “I went over to the new soccer stadium the other night. Wow! If you have not been there, the park is really a blow away.”
According to Toros spokesperson Anwar Chagollan, “H-E-B Park will be leading the USL in stadium infrastructure. Amenities of H-E-B Park include a full-service restaurant, concessions, a park with a playground, an amphitheater with a capacity for 2,000 individuals, practice fields, executive lounges, a sports bar, and 33 suites. Suites include VIP amenities and a 16-seat capacity. H-E-B Park will be the host of top-of-the-line professional soccer, musical concerts, high school sporting events, and other forms of entertainment.”
Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. said the advantages of H-E-B Park were presented to College Sports Solutions, LLC during that consulting firm’s recent visit to Edinburg.
“The people from the university, the people from the football feasibility study committee and the consultants are meeting every leader here in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Agustín García, Jr. “They are meeting with all the leaders, all the officials, all the stakeholders. Edinburg is obviously one of the entities that will be giving input to see what the possibility of bringing a football program to our region of the Valley would be. They (UTRGV) are very clear that they want this to be a Valley initiative, so it’s exciting.”
Bailey’s appearance before the Public Affairs Luncheon represented the latest influential figure or group of individuals to provide timely and critical information to the membership of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the region.
“As Founding President of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley since May 2014, Dr. Guy Bailey has taken the institution to the next level with the fruition of the medical school. His passion is higher education and his commitment to the students, faculty and his new home – the Rio Grande Valley – are commendable,” said Elva Jackson Garza, who serves as Vice Chair of the Public Affairs Committee for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. “Dr. Bailey’s comments regarding the economic impact that UTRGV has in the region, and the support received from corporate partners are vital components to the continued growth and success not only of the university, but the entire Rio Grande Valley.”
In addition to the Mayor and the Edinburg EDC Executive Director, other prominent area leaders in attendance for the Public Affairs Luncheon included: Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina; Councilmember David Torres; Edinburg School Board Trustee Ellie Torres, who also serves as Secretary/Treasurer for the Edinburg EDC; and Mark Iglesias, President of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg EDC.
FOOTBALL FEASIBILITY STUDY AT UTRGV
UTRGV first announced in February 2016 a football feasibility study, which is a subset of the university’s founding strategic and master plans that are currently being developed, according to Patrick Gonzáles, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communication at UTRGV.
In April 2016, UTRGV announced the creation of a football feasibility committee, which is comprised of university staff, faculty and students, community leaders, and special advisers.
Regarding the roles to be played by College Sports Solutions, LLC, whose hiring was announced on Thursday, June 30, 2016, UTRGV officials said they expect the study to be comprehensive.
“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,” UTRGV’s Athletics Director King said. “This consultant group has extensive experience in this area and has conducted similar studies for other athletics programs.”
UTRGV will pay the consultant group $100,000 for the overall study, which includes travel expenses.
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.
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.
MEMBERS, UTRGV FOOTBALL FEASIBILITY STUDY COMMITTEE
In addition to Brown, the football feasibility study committee, whose membership was announced by UTRGV officials on Sunday, April 24, 2016, is made up of the following individuals:
• 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, and former State Representative for House District 41 in Hidalgo County
• 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
• 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 member of the 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
• Oliver Luck, Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and former Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at West Virginia University (WVU), his alma mater, a retired American football player who spent five seasons in the National Football League (NFL) as a quarterback for the Houston Oilers (1982–1986), and also the first president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer (MLS). Under his watch, the Dynamo won the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007.
• 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
• Alan Marks, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs & Athletics Counsel, University of Texas System
Patrick Gonzáles, Anwar Chagollan and Ronnie Larralde contributed to this article. For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc