Football may finally be coming to the Rio Grande Valley.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has announced its intention to pursue the creation of a football team with former Texas head coach Mack Brown leading the study committee.
The fastest growing university in Texas, UTRGV is a consolidated university that includes the former University of Texas at Brownsville and University of Texas Pan American campuses. Aiming to reach 50,000 students in the coming years, UTRGV is also working to open a medical school in their efforts to bring top-tier education to the criminally under-served Rio Grande Valley.
University president Guy Bailey served as provost at UTSA from 1997 to 2005 when the university first implemented its roadmap to bring football to San Antonio. With Bailey's experience, Mack Brown's guidance, and athletic director Chris King's innovative leadership, I have no doubt that UTRGV will be successful in their attempts to bring college football to the university.
The Rio Grande Valley boasts a population of over 1.3 million rabid football fans. With little competition for sports entertainment dollars, a consistent winner at UTRGV should draw sizable crowds. Anyone that's seen how many RGV football fans travel over three hours to watch their high school teams play in San Antonio can contest to that.
UTRGV faces two primary challenges to starting up football. The first is Title IX compliance-- UTRGV will need to fully fund an additional women's sport before adding football. Secondly, the Vaqueros will need to find a home. The Valley does not host many large stadiums that could fit a college football team so construction on a permanent stadium will need to begin as soon as possible. The university recently purchased 52 acres near campus.
With the Southland Conference potentially needing to move aggressively to protect its future, UTRGV football should have a clear path to the Division I ranks.
As a UTSA alumn, I can attest to the incredible communal strength that can be developed on a Texas college campus once Division I football is thrown into the mix. UTRGV football can bring an identity to a new university as well as draw recognition to a huge region of the country that few outside of South Texas have ever paid much mind to.