Long before Rice Stadium hosted UTSA this past weekend, President John F. Kennedy delivered a famous speech from the stadium's turf in Houston. With America losing the Space Race to the Soviets, Kennedy delivered a challenge to his fellow countrymen. Kennedy sought to have Americans step foot on the moon, a feat thought to be impossible at the time.
We choose to go to the moon in this decade[...], not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win
In this quote we see Kennedy use his position as a leader to push his country through adversity and ultimately realize success by refusing to shy away from ambition and embracing sacrifice.
The UTSA football team that failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities on that same field 52 years later could stand to learn from Kennedy's message and leadership.
Rice's stadium was built in 1950 and features many construction quirks of the era, namely trough urinals in the men's restroom and low seating that is extremely close to the sideline. This intimate setting provided the thousands of Roadrunner fans that traveled three hours to watch a 2-7 team with an up-close view of the Roadrunner bench.
For the past couple of months I've really struggled to figure out how this team collapsed in what should have been a banner year. After sitting a few yards away from the bench, I've finally figured it out. This team has no leadership.
When Kam Jones set up the offense with great field position after a 36 yard kick return and received zero response from the sideline, it was apparent. When most of the sideline stood silently with their arms crossed as the defense squared up for a crucial 4th-and-inches snap, it was apparent. When a player shrugged off a coach's advice after missing a block on punt return, it was apparent. When players were seen laughing and joking on the bench immediately after Rice took a 17-0 lead, it was apparent. When no one told them to knock it off, it was apparent.
Leadership falls on the coaching staff, not just the players. The theme didn't end there. When UTSA elected not to go for it on fourth and short from midfield, it was apparent. When UTSA waved the white flag by punting while down by two scores with just three minutes left in the game, it was apparent. When the team didn't stay on the field after the game to sing the alma mater with the Spirit of San Antonio band that woke up at 5 am to travel to Houston in support, it was apparent.
The lack of leadership on a team with 35 seniors seems baffling until you remember who the Roadrunners vocal leaders were last season. Eric Soza, Steven Kurfehs, Evans Okotcha... all gone. This program needed new voices to rise up and guide this team to its potential-- a bowl game and an appearance in the conference championship game. Instead they're on their way to a 2 or 3 win season, a pitiful send off for the original 18 Roadrunners that gave up so much to help start this program from scratch.
Roadrunner fans should still show up in droves to support their university and to hopefully gain a glimpse at the future of the program as the younger guys start to receive more playing time. In spite of having to travel to San Antonio on a Thursday in crappy weather, I'll still be there to do my part in helping UTSA claim the highest attendance average in Conference USA. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that UTSA could see their smallest crowd ever against Southern Miss this week, costing the program one of the few silver linings on a tough season.
People will bemoan the attendance, and for good reason. I won't be judging those that choose not to attend. It's hard to root for a team that doesn't root for itself.