UTSA to join Conference USA press conference transcript
Dr. Ricardo Romo, UTSA President
"Good Morning and welcome. Today's another great day for UTSA. I want to thank all of you for joining us for this historic announcement. As you know, just a few minutes ago, we were officially invited to join Conference USA and we accepted it.
"We are extremely pleased and proud to be invited to Conference USA. I want to thank the commissioner and the presidents from all the other universities for their faith and trust in UTSA and our athletics department.
"I'd like to introduce some individuals who have been great champions for UTSA. We wouldn't be where we are now without these folks.
"We begin with Athletics Director Lynn Hickey. She'll say some remarks in a minute. We also have John Montford, who is the chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce's football task committee. I want to thank those two individuals right now.
"I also want to acknowledge selected individuals because this was an effort by many people. Like anything in victory, it takes a team.
"I want to acknowledge our Vice President, Gage Paine, Dr. Paine, thank you for all you have done. I also would like to thank Larry Coker, who just got back from a recruiting trip. When we introduced football last year, we created a great opportunity for UTSA to be where it is today. We believe a stronger athletics program is going to enhance our student experience and it's going to really tie us to our alumni and community. Conference USA helps us meet all those objectives.
"I would share with you that in our meetings with Conference USA, there were several UTSA and San Antonio attributes that they found really attractive. First of all, they liked our size. We are the seventh-largest city in the United States. The market size is really good and San Antonio has come out to support the cause. They also liked the record-setting attendance and football season that we launched last year. We set NCAA inaugural season records for both first game and season average attendance. No doubt when they saw the video, they saw our band and students all fired up. They also liked our future schedules. They liked the fact that people like us. They liked the fact that Rice, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Arizona State and Virginia want to play us.
"In order to get into Conference USA, we felt we had the attendance, the Alamodome, our team and the students, but we wanted to show them that we also had the community. One of the reasons for our success is that our community came out and supported us last year. San Antonio understands that this is our home team. When got ready to launch our campaign, we asked Mayor Castro, Judge Nelson Wolff, Speaker Joe Strauss and the Chamber of Commerce to write some letters to all these presidents and institutions. I would like to thank you because the campaign worked.
"Now the exciting thing about us going into Conference USA is that it is geographically compact. There are going to be four Texas teams with us, UTEP, North Texas and Rice. We also get to play our neighbors. We'll play Tulsa and then we'll play in Louisiana against Tulane and Louisiana Tech. This provides us with a lot of advantages that Lynn Hickey will talk about in a few minutes. It will provide some real rivalries and allow our fans to travel to some of these games. We like to go to Houston and we can also go to Dallas, New Orleans and other places because we're in a compact regional area, it also means that our student-athletes are not away from campus for very long.
"I always have said that I have the best athletics director in the country and now she's proven to me again that she's stepping up. I want you to know that she got on this notion of wanting to extend and move to other levels not too long after I hired her. Without further delay, I turn things over to Lynn Hickey."
Lynn Hickey, UTSA Athletics Director
"If Dr. Romo is going to call me the best athletics director in the nation, then we definitely have the best president.
"It is an honor and I'm very excited to be in front of you all today. It's all surreal. We actually pulled in the coaches and the student-athletes yesterday afternoon to give them a head's up of the action that was taking place with our Board of Regents. It was kind of hard to talk because I was thinking this is unreal and I couldn't believe that it was all happening.
"I would like to recognize all our student-athletes and coaches that are here this morning. One of the things that we need to keep in focus is that the reason we are doing this is for our students. We're doing it for our students, our university and our community.
"This is not some wild harebrained idea that this crazy lady has done. This was the right thing to do. It matches the mission of what this unbelievable gentleman (Dr. Romo) has done. The first year I was here, we had one intramural field for 17,000 students because there were not a lot of people who believed in what UTSA had the potential to become. This was once a school seen as an afterthought, where people go to school because they can't go anywhere else. Dr. Romo's leadership has helped get everybody focused on being much more than that and it has shown the students that they deserve a campus life like any other school in the country. We are here today because of his courage and foresight.
"I have a lot of people to thank and there is no way I'm going to be able to do that appropriately, but if there's anybody I need to thank besides Dr. Romo, Mr. Montford and Dr. Paine, it would be Brad Parrott. He has spent a great amount of time and his vision and networking has brought us so much. I'm proud to say, 'we did it.'
"The reason we went into this venture is because we were very fortunate to have understanding from the WAC, which is a great group of schools. I just came from a meeting with them in Phoenix. It was a little awkward and difficult because there's disruption. You are talking about a class group of people and the interim commissioner, Jeff Hurd, handled it extremely well. It was becoming evident that there were not going to be enough football schools to stay in the WAC for us to compete at the FBS level and we just have too much of an investment to let that go.
"So as the movement began, we reached out to Conference USA once again, just as we did several years ago. We had an opportunity to make our case to the commissioner when he visited San Antonio last month. I think once he was here and with what Mr. Montford's group did to solidify that the community was behind this, it became a no-brainer that this was a city that needed to be in the mix.
"I want to thank to the board of Conference USA, the presidents, the ADs and Britton Banowsky. We are joining a great class of schools. They've always had a reputation of keeping athletics and academics prioritized correctly.
"Conference USA is a nationally-recognized brand, so the opportunities we're going to have from ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports, are going to be a new way of life for us. They've done the a good job of trying to keep regional play. When you look at the map, the group of schools that we're going to be able to compete with will allow our fans to be a part of this. We're going to have new rivalries, but we're also going to be able to keep some of our old rivalries. It's a win-win because it's the best of everything."
John Montford, Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Football Task Force Chairman
"It's been a long seven years of dealing with Lynn Hickey. For seven years, it's been like being pecked to death by a rubber duck. [laughs]
"Several of us got together and the credit goes to all the people who have already been mentioned this morning, including Secretary Cisneros, Joe McKinney, David Worley and everyone that has helped co-chair this Football Task Force.
"We got together in the middle of the last decade and thought that San Antonio had grown exponentially within the last 10 years as it went from the ninth-largest city to the seventh-largest city in America. We felt like we could be a big city, but we could also be a great city. One of the things that we needed, candidly, was a Division 1 program. These folks really put their shoulder to the wheel and helped put this together. We owe the business community and the Greater Chamber of Commerce a lot of credit for unifying behind UTSA. I will tell you, there are a lot of computers on this university advertising how you can get your degree online. However, nothing enhances the student experience more than an opportunity like this to attend a great university and participate in all these activities.
"I think this is going to be a real jewel for Central Texas. One thing I kept saying is that we don't have to play second fiddle to anybody else. I would like to thank Brad Parrott personally for his diligence and timely assessment on the work of this thing. It was a huge undertaking, but we did it. I think it's one more notch and one more step forward to San Antonio being one of the greatest cities in America. Congratulations to you, Ricardo (Romo), for your tremendous leadership and I certainly appreciate the business community being solidly behind this initiative. Remember, you have to walk before you can run and, Larry Coker, we don't expect you to win every game right off the bat, but let's get behind Larry's program now as you did this past year. Let's really reach our stride because we indeed are one of America's greatest cities."