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Friday, November 28, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Texas-San Antonio has coach, stadium and big aspirations

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



Larry Coker is enjoying the moment, a harried but blissful November that finds him the only unbeaten NCAA Division I head football coach in the state of Texas.

Of course, Coker notes, it is something of a "honeymoon" period because his school, the University of Texas-San Antonio, won't actually play its first game until Sept. 3, 2011.

The Roadrunners have painstakingly planned for their future, one that could be hitched to the Western Athletic Conference as soon as this afternoon, pending approval by the UT System Board of Regents at this morning's meeting in Austin. UTSA and its Interstate 35 "neighbor" Texas State in San Marcos, are expected to accept invitations that will put them in the WAC beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

Whether the University of Hawaii, the WAC's senior member, will be there to welcome them July 1, 2012 is another question. The Warriors are pursuing hopes of a Mountain West Conference/Big West future with independence in football as a possible fallback.

But as UH ponders the possibility of exiting the WAC, UTSA is embracing a new-look WAC as a launching pad for an ambitious future. Coker, who was 60-15 in six seasons (2001-06) at the University of Miami, took over at UTSA 20 months ago, tasked with building a Roadrunner program from scratch.

They signed their first 24 recruits in the spring added a couple dozen walk-ons and transfers and have been working out this fall essentially on a teamwide redshirt year in preparation for their 2011 debut.

For all the startup headaches that accompany it, UTSA's head coaching job was much sought after, given the school's intriguing niche. San Antonio is the largest U.S. city so far without major college or NFL football and has the nation's seventh largest population. UTSA, which lists an enrollment of 30,300, had strong student backing for the addition of football and has begun recruiting in a state that produces nearly 400 Division I football signees a year.

The Roadrunners will play their games in the 65,000-seat Alamodome and have an $84 million athletic training complex in the works. UTSA will play nonconference games with Arizona, Houston and Virginia in 2013.

Originally, UTSA planned to transition into the Football Championship Subdivision Southland Conference, where its other sports are. But with the openings in the WAC produced by the departures of Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State, UTSA has shuffled its game plan and accelerated its timetable.

With the prospect of UTSA and Texas State, which has been competing at the FCS level, possibly joining Montana, a WAC that already includes Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State will take on more of a geographic reshaping.

Coker says he is mindful of the challenges that would come with his fledgling program playing the Warriors on a regular, conference basis. But, unlike some schools who see the multi-time zone trek as something to be bemoaned, he says the Roadrunners would relish he opportunity to visit Hawaii.

That's if UH is still around, of course.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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