Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Q&A with a UTSA Blogger

As Old Dominion approaches its final season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, we're trying to get familiar with their future Conference USA opponents.  Recently we shared a Q&A with a Charlotte blogger, which you can read by clicking this link.

While most Monarch fans are more familiar with a school in a neighboring state, they may know less about some of the more-distant schools.  In limited time I've reached out to a couple bloggers of those schools.  The gentlemen at Coker Chronicles were kind enough to respond with some background on the University of Texas - San Antonio, which we're sharing here.  (If you question how "Coker Chronicles" is an appropriate for a blog centered on the Roadrunners, read below for the discussion of their head coach.)

The Roadrunners' inaugural football season was 2011.  (Photo source: UTSA.edu)

The content that Adam and Jared provide at their website is impressive and worth visiting regularly.  You can also follow Coker Chronicles on Twitter

(Unrelated to UTSA: it's taken me some time but I think I've got my angle to express my thoughts on Old Dominion's change in conferences.  I hope to have that blog post available by the end of the week.  It's not easy to articulate two decades of association with the Association.)

Without further ado, here's a Q&A with Adam of Coker Chronicles!

1. What is your association with UTSA?

Adam: I am a San Antonian. I lived in the city until I left for Denton, TX and the U of North Texas. My support of the program was largely born out of my love of my hometown. I do plan on attending graduate school come fall, so I will have a more solid connection, soon.

Former Towson, CAA great Gary Neal is a key part to the San Antonio Spurs' current NBA title run.  (Photo source: CNNSI.COM)

2. What are some Road Runner athletics accomplishments outside football?

Adam: Basketball, as under-appreciated as it is, has brought the most fame (and relatively decent fortune) for the program. The program has three trips to the NCAA tournament to it's name and a win to boot. Devin Brown, the former NBA and current D-League player, is probably the most accomplished of the program's alumni.

Also of note? The track and field team won the Southland Outdoor and Indoor championships this year also.
Devin Brown in action for the Hornets.  (Photo source: NBA.com)

3. Talk a little about how football started - has there always been a clamoring for D1 football? Did a couple large donors come through with big checks or was there a groundswell of support? How important was it getting Larry Coker as the first coach?

Adam: There has always been a low rumble of support for football in the city. (http://www.cokerchronicles.com/2012/03/wayback-machine-1971-article-on.html) I think the recent wave of support that culminated in the reality was due to a collision of factors: 1) An Athletic Director (Lynn Hickey) with the talent and ability (and connections) to make it happen, B) A sense of possibility from the city leaders. The Alamodome is 20 years old and everyone realizes now that an NFL team won't be using it as a home stadium without major renovations -- but it is perfect for a college football team. The university, lacking major funds to build a stadium and the necessary facilities only needed to solicit donors to fund the latter. With the Alamodome a viable option (and a resounding success as a home venue in hindsight) it suddenly was much easier to convince those donors to write checks. After all, it is much easier to write a check for a coach than it is to get a stadium built.

Larry Coker was a genius hire. Although largely seen as a failure after his time in Miami, he is exactly the kind of coach the fledgling program needed. He isn't likely to be hired away, has the cache of a championship-winning coach, has tons of experience at various programs, and also has a desire to prove himself.
(VBR Productions note: Coach Coker visited Bobby Wilder during 2010 to get a look inside ODU's own start-up program.  You can read Rich Radford's article on the encounter by clicking here.) 
4. What were some highlights of the first season? What did the administration do right to get an average attendance of 35K in its first season?
More than 56K attended UTSA's first game 9/3/2011. (Photo source: MySanAntonio.com)

Adam: I think the obvious highlight was Eric Soza's scamper for the first ever touchdown in the program's history. The entire opening quarter was perfect (in which they scored on the first 3 possessions); video can be found at the following two links: http://www.goutsa.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=797188&db_oem_id=13100 and http://www.flickr.com/photos/66994849@N03/6131957120/in/pool-1796644@N22/. Personally, I feel that spurred some of the subsequent attendance numbers.

Though I credit most of the attendance figures to the fans, the administration did well to not hinder the enthusiasm. They did a marketing blitz and made it easy for the average fan to know about the games, and get tickets. Similarly, they made sure they students could get to the games and back to campus without having to figure out their own transportation.

5. What is the evolution of UTSA joining Conference USA? How do you and other fans feel about Old Dominion joining the conference?

Adam: The evolution of UTSA's bid to the conference is a long one involving back-stabbing and board room meetings at much higher levels. UTSA is definitely a beneficiary of the major BCS shakeups we've seen the last few years ( and really going back to the 60s). With CUSA and MWC looking to strengthen their position in light of so much conference realignment, they looked to form an Alliance (and still do). With the sudden need for teams --and TV markets -- the addition of UTSA didn't seem so ridiculous. Whereas some CUSA presidents dismissed the program as too new for membership now, it seems CUSA is looking to the future with the addition, basically stealing UTSA away from the Sun Belt to everyone's delight (witness TxStates' anger at having to be associated with that conference.)

Gratuitous picture of Old Dominion football.
ODU's addition has been drowned out by the euphoria surrounding the move. I do know that the admin looked to ODU as something like a how-to-build-a-program. Going forward the two schools are likely to be in different divisions, so I doubt there will be as much sports hate between the schools as there will be for inter-division and in-state rivals.

6. What is your outlook for the 2012 season under Coach Coker?
Adam: If anyone wasn't exactly thrilled with the rapid pace of movement to FBS status, it was Larry Coker. He has to do the grunt work of finding and molding a rag-tag squad of cast-offs and first timers into a competitive team. Most programs have something like a 10-year learning curve to ramp up with. Coker has had only one class come in post-inaguaral season. It is with that knowledge that I am withholding judgement. I fully expect to see some terrible games in which the Roadrunners are dismantled and outclassed. However, this team/program has consistently exceeded expectations so I reserve the right to be pleasantly surprised.

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