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Texas State is a Sleeping Giant

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There has to be a magic formula for unlocking athletic success at Texas State. Right?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

My alma mater is a bit unique in how they moved up to the FBS. The Texas State Bobcats didn't start a team from scratch, nor did they wait until they had plenty of wins and rings to make the transition. Instead, they did it the really hard way.

Twelve years ago, Texas State football was in the midst of a 20 year dry spell so pronounced that nobody in their right mind cared about it. Every athletic facility outside of the end zone complex ranged from dilapidated to downright embarrassing, and the fanbase was nonexistent. Our athletic director, now seemingly a magnet for controversy, was fixing a completely dysfunctional athletic department that was guilty more of complete sloppiness rather than any particularly egregious violations.

Taken in that context, the rise of Texas State from an FCS laughingstock to an FBS football program with gleaming facilities and actual fans with expectations is a breathtaking rate of improvement within a decade.

Yet things have seemingly gone a bit stale. None of Texas State's three high profile programs of football, basketball, and baseball have so much as sniffed a conference title since baseball blasted through the Southland Conference in 2011. Combine that with last year's 3-9 disaster of a campaign despite high preseason expectations, and many are a bit restless despite a Year Zero rebuild scenario on the horizon.

Thankfully, new head coach Everett Withers and his staff are selling the hell out of Bobcat football to the fans and providing more access to the program than ever before. What's unknown is whether an administration that's often seemed reluctant to truly play for keeps at the FBS level will help him or hold him back.

PROS:

  • Sellouts for Texas Tech, Navy, and the 2005 season show that with a good opponent and/or a winning team, attendance will explode.
  • Texas State is located well inside the Golden Triangle of Austin/San Antonio, DFW, and Houston. Hello, recruiting hotbeds.
  • Enrollment is booming, and there will eventually be enough Texas State graduates to fill the hole left by generations of SWT partisans alienated by the name change.
  • San Marcos is an excellent college town by both state of Texas and Sun Belt standards.
  • Texas State has solid Sun Belt-caliber football facilities, especially the north end zone renovation and south end zone complex.
  • The largest athletics budget in the Sun Belt.

CONS:

  • An AD that was good for cleaning up a wayward FCS athletic department but has never seemed comfortable with the rise in expectations that came with the FBS move.
  • Being the westernmost outpost (after Idaho and NMSU leave) in a conference focused on a southeastern footprint puts Texas State in an uncomfortable situation in bowl selections and with the fans.
  • San Marcos is a media island. Nearby Austin is Longhorn central, and UTSA is dangerously close to shutting Texas State out of San Antonio permanently.
  • A lack of an indoor practice facility puts the Bobcats behind the Sun Belt's elite in the long term facilities arms race.
  • If the team isn't winning by midseason or playing a big name opponent, the alumni often won't show.
  • Much of the budget is from student fees and not private donations.

Making the case for why Texas State should be higher than 6th: Managing Editor and UTSA Beat Writer Jared Kalmus

I'm mostly okay with where Texas State ranks here but if I had to argue in one direction or the other it would be for a higher ranking. While athletic director Larry Teis holds the Bobcats back with his penny pinching and often absent-minded leadership, Texas State is not a place that should be hard to win at.

The campus boasts some of the most impressive athletic facilities in the conference and a convenient location puts the Bobcats within a three to four hour unofficial visit day trip for athletes in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Texas State's academic profile is rising and a beautiful campus will always impress visitors.

With the right leadership and alumni support, Texas State could be a perennial contender for the Sunbelt championship. All of the other chips are already in place.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You would choose Texas State because you want to play with a Texas school with all of the recruiting potential but with none of the geographic (UTEP) or academic restrictions (Rice). You think Jon Bois had some great ideas and you want to see what it'd be like to switch every player's strength rating from 99 to 50 and every player's speed rating from 50 to 99. Also, you like making Necessary Roughness jokes that certainly none of us have ever heard before, you fresh bringer of perspective, you.

If you choose this job in real life:

You have significant Texas recruiting ties and want a Texas head coaching job with little in-state competition, at least on the field and within your conference. You can handle expectations that can be slightly...outsized at times, and relish the spotlight. You're not afraid to get things done and publicize the hell out of your program with somewhat minimal help from your athletic department. You want to eventually parlay this job into some sort of gig higher up on the totem pole, such as Houston or Texas Tech.

Verdict:

Texas State appears to be one of those places that should have everything going for it, and probably would with the right hires at athletic director and head coach. Everett Withers may just be that head coach, as he's willing to engage the fans, advertise the program, and disrupt a culture of complacency. Now he just needs FBS-caliber administrative support to really get things moving in the right direction.

If that doesn't happen, Texas State may get labeled as one of those places where it's harder to win at than it should be.

Best jobs in the Sun Belt countdown:

12. NMSU

11. Idaho

10. ULM

9. Georgia State

8. South Alabama

7. Coastal Carolina

6. Texas State