Looking Beyond 2012 in San Antonio
By Paul Myerberg // Apr 10, 2012
Will Texas-San Antonio step right into the F.B.S. and win games? I wouldn’t bet on it. The Roadrunners have a number of issues, none looming larger than the team’s absolute youth and inexperience: this is a program with only 10 games under its belt, by the way, and it’s only natural that an already rocky learning curve hits another gear when you substitute teams like Bacone and McMurry with teams like Louisiana Tech and Utah State. Expecting anything more than a delightfully bumpy first season in the F.B.S. — the fans will love any team that shows up — would require an extreme stretch of logic; it would ask that the Roadrunners turn into Rocky, the lovable David that unseats Goliath, and that’s not happening.
The immediate future looks bleak. The long-term future, however, is full of promise. One day, even if takes five or more years, as at Florida International, U.T.S.A. could turn into the WAC’s gold standard. There’s no guarantee that this occurs, of course, but here are three good reasons why it could:
1. The built-in fan support evident last season. As noted in the team preview, U.T.S.A. set a new N.C.A.A. start-up record with 56,743 fans for the season opener against Northeastern State. That’s simply an astounding total, even if the Roadrunners failed to keep up that pace for the entire home schedule.
The message that sends is clear: U.T.S.A. has terrific fan support. For now, at least. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the fans stop showing up once the bloom is off the rose — if the team loses. If U.T.S.A. wins, or at least puts up a good fight in defeat, there’s every reason to think that the fan support will continue at its fever pitch.
That doesn’t win games for you, but it does increase the university’s coffers. That, in turn, provides money for facilities and a top-notch coaching staff; that increases the program’s draw to potential recruits; that increases the program’s talent level; that makes U.T.S.A. a WAC contender. It’s simple, though it’s not easy.
Think of the strong non-B.C.S. conference programs that don’t have tremendous fan support. More often than not, the two go hand in hand. While it’s possible to succeed without this level of support — see most of the MAC, for example — this built-in support level does give a non-B.C.S. conference team a leg up on its league competition.
2. An easy path to best-in-the-WAC level recruiting classes. Texas State is in the same boat, to a point, but the Bobcats don’t have the same new car smell. For the foreseeable future, U.T.S.A. can sell local prospects on the chance to step right into major roles — so can Texas State, but not quite to same degree.
And that’s just one draw. There’s also the chance to be part of something special: that’s hard to define, but in short, it’s the idea that a prospect could write his own legend as the first star in program history. Think that’s not an enticing opportunity for a recruit holding offers only from the rest of the WAC? Given that choice, a Texas-area recruit would likely sign with the Roadrunners, right?
And it won’t be hard for U.T.S.A. to find talented prospects — they are smack-dab in the middle of Texas, after all, and in lovely San Antonio to boot. This is a state that churns out more F.B.S. talent than any other; while U.T.S.A. will be very low on the list for the state’s best talent, it should be very much in play for Texas recruits who don’t get offers from Texas, Texas A&M, T.C.U. and the like.
While New Mexico State often needs to go the JUCO route to fill out a class, and while Idaho needs to dig deep to find WAC-ready recruits, U.T.S.A. should be able to locate F.B.S.-ready prospects with relative ease. For now, the Roadrunners need some JUCO help. In the future, the program could develop a pipeline of second- or third-tier Texas recruits.
3. The WAC itself is starving for a frontrunner. Louisiana Tech holds that mantle today, and deservedly so: the Bulldogs are outstanding, and should continue to be the WAC’s best for as long as Sonny Dykes remains at the forefront of the program.
But Louisiana Tech’s history, though fairly distinguished, shows a program that rolls in cycles. Good for a few years, down for a few years, good again and then bad again, it’s hard for the WAC to view the Bulldogs as the long-term power it needs to stand on the same ground as the MAC, the Mountain West and Conference USA.
Perhaps U.T.S.A. — or maybe Texas State — becomes the WAC’s standard bearer. It’s not too hard to imagine: U.T.S.A. has the geographic edge, if nothing else, to simply out-recruit the rest of the WAC. And the Roadrunners already seem to have the support to hang with the rest of the conference, even if that could dissipate over time if the program fares poorly in its move up to the F.B.S.
Think of it another way. If you’re gambling on any one WAC program to lead the conference in, say, 15 years, wouldn’t it be a fairly safe bet to throw your coin on the Roadrunners? If the conference retains its current alignment, doesn’t the program have the highest ceiling?
If U.T.S.A. plays its cards right, the program should reach the WAC’s current talent level within three full recruiting cycles. If the Roadrunners continue to bring in solid talent, the program might be the league’s best within five or six years. In the long term, the conference is there for the taking.
Tags: Florida International, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Sonny Dykes, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio, WAC
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