In a world with over 4,000 universities, 351 Division I athletic programs, and 12 Texas FBS football programs, UTSA has its work cut out for it in generating exposure and brand awareness for the 48 year old institution in a crowded market. The up-hill path is even more treacherous for the young university as a G5 football program. While annual games against Power Five opponents such as Texas A&M and Arizona help shine a spotlight on the Roadrunners, the program needs to do more to push its name out than scheduling non-premier games against well-known programs.
Looking across the G5, the programs that gain the most notoriety typically have some type of defining factor that helps them to stand out from the crowd. Some are natural, such as Navy’s and Air Force’s status as military service academies. Other schools have gained exposure for more gimmicky moves— Boise State’s blue turf and Western Kentucky’s awesome Big Red mascot are great examples.
UTSA has an opportunity in front of them that will help the university get its name in the public’s ears while also providing a nice boost to its football program.
While the Roadrunners currently play all of their home football games in San Antonio’s Alamodome the venue is owned by the City of San Antonio. The circumstances make it tough for UTSA to pull a Georgia State and outright buy the stadium away from the city but they’re able to do the next best thing.
This January the city announced that they would be shopping out naming rights deals for the Alamodome itself and for specific areas in and around the dome. With an anticipated selling point of $850,000 to $1.1 million per year, I think UTSA would profit greatly if they were to place the winning bid for the naming rights to the entire Alamodome.
The advantages UTSA would gain by purchasing the rights to name the Alamodome are plentiful. First and foremost, it would further cement UTSA’s engagement with the San Antonio community by becoming synonymous with the city’s most nationally-prominent landmark besides, well, the actual Alamo.
By owning the naming rights to the Alamodome, UTSA would be planting a flag of conquest over the city of San Antonio. Every monster truck jam, Disney on Ice production, and Taylor Swift concert to come through South Texas will inherently promote UTSA’s brand by advertising these huge events at the “UTSA Alamodome”.
UTSA would also capture the attention of sports fans across the nation if they were to grab the Alamodome’s naming rights. Of course the Alamobowl has emerged as one of the premier non-New Years bowls in college football. The Alamodome will also host the NCAA Final Four in 2018 with talks of the city also hosting future NCAA championships.
Lastly and most relevantly, securing the naming rights to the Alamodome will do wonders to make the dome feel more like home for UTSA’s football team. With UTSA set to play another 18 seasons in the Alamodome (at the least), it’s time for the spacious confines of the dome to start to bleed with the Roadrunners’ program identity. This process is already under way as the dome is sporting navy and orange accent colors as part of the massive renovation currently under way.
While paint coats help, home is all in the name. This move would certainly benefit UTSA’s athletics program greatly but it’s a marketing expenditure for the university itself foremost. While UTSA athletics is decades away from having the financial strength to finance their own stadium, an annual expenditure of around $1 million from the university itself is just a drop in the bucket for the school as a whole. If UTSA’s growth rate from the 2015 fiscal year held strong in 2016 then the university likely spent a whopping $59 million in expenditures last year. This figure should only continue to rise as UTSA continues to bring in grant money and raise tuition amounts, lessening the impact of the financial commitment.
The cost is nothing to scoff at and the timing is tough with UTSA set to welcome a new school president this summer but UTSA needs to act aggressively and creatively to separate themselves from the pack of universities they’re competing against for the top students, researchers, and athletes available. Plus the “UTSA Alamodome” just has a gorgeous ring to it.