UTSA continues to seek opponents from Power 5 conferences

UTSA is set to play Texas A&M in football for the first time Saturday at 11 a.m. at Kyle Field. The contract between the two schools calls for a second game at A&M again in 2019. But unless the scheduling philosophy in the two athletic departments changes, the second meeting may be the last one between the two schools in the near future.

By Jerry Briggs
For InsideRunnerSports.com

The UTSA Roadrunners are actively mapping out future schedules in football, eyeing non-conference games against Power 5 competition and also against the military service academies, athletic department officials said this week.

As for a future contract with Texas A&M, officials said that nothing is imminent.

UTSA will kick off against A&M for the first meeting between the schools at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Kyle Field.  Under the current contract, UTSA will make a return trip to the home of one of the Southeastern Conference’s newest members in 2019.

But unless the two athletic departments change their thinking, it appears that the 2019 contest might be the last meeting between the schools in the near future.

Why?  Because UTSA ideally would like to set future contracts with Power 5 opponents with games in San Antonio, which could be a sticking point with A&M.

“We’ve got a significant number of schools willing to come in and play at the (Alamodome),” UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said.  “At this point, A&M is not willing to do that.  We’ve got a lot of other schools that see the value of coming into San Antonio just for the destination, for their fans, and because everyone wants to recruit here.”

“So we need to focus on some Power 5 teams that want to come in here.  We haven’t been able to do that with A&M at this time.”

In 2012, A&M started play in the SEC, the top-rated Power 5 conference in the nation. UTSA’s two-game deal with A&M announced the following year called for the Roadrunners to receive a school-record $800,000 payout for the road game this year and $900,000 for the return trip in 2019.  

Since June of 2013, when the A&M deal was announced, UTSA has booked six non-conference game contracts, including deals with Texas State; Southern of Baton Rouge, La.; Alabama State; Memphis; Illinois and Houston.

UTSA agreed to the deals with Illinois and Houston last spring, the first two future contracts announced since the hiring of coach Frank Wilson.

A one-game contract calling for UTSA to play at Illinois in 2021 has been the only one against a Power 5 opponent announced since the A&M contract was finalized. But Hickey emphasized that UTSA, a fourth-year member of Conference USA, still wants to play Power 5 schools.

“When we started up (the program) and wanted to go in the FBS, and wanted to be certified by the NCAA, we had to have five FBS home games (per year),” she said.  “We had no money to buy (home) games.  So, we were in a situation where it was easier in some ways to get the Power 5 in here to help us get started.  We over-scheduled.”

Before UTSA joined a conference, the school scheduled with Power 5 opponents such as Arizona, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Arizona State and Baylor.  Now, UTSA is a fourth-year member of Conference USA.  

C-USA exists as one of five Football Bowl Subdivision conferences that make up what is commonly referred to as the Group of 5, which also includes the American Athletic Conference, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt and the Mid-American.  

The Power 5 includes the heavy hitters of college football in the SEC, the Pac-12, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We’re at a point in our history, in our scheduling, where we can schedule smarter and we can spread them out,” Hickey said. “But I think our program and our city is still a very attractive site.  If there is anything that’s different, we’re playing well enough now in our history, where people probably have second thoughts about saying, ‘Let’s go to UTSA, because that’s going to be an automatic win.’  That maybe is more difficult.”

Nevertheless, UTSA is still seeking Power 5 contracts, she said.  In fact, UTSA deputy athletic director Kellie Elliott said the school is currently in discussion with other major conference schools about future deals.

“For Power 5s, we’re being really strategic in looking at, either, home and homes, where we’re doing our recruiting,” Elliott said.  “Or, where coach wants to go there to recruit, as well, and play.  He doesn’t really want to go north.  So, we have stayed more in the south, and (in) the southeast.  

“He’s looking for schools that, for us, are attractive to compete against -- against our style of play.  We’re looking at things three years out, so (it’s) a little bit of a guess on what that’s supposed to be.   We also look at (military) academy schools every year.”

UTSA has never played a team from one of the service academies, which would include Air Force, Army or Navy.

“So we try to schedule an academy school and we try to look at one Power 5 (per year), at least,” Elliott said.  “And, obviously, we look for an FBS (either Power 5 or Group of 5) that we think might travel well.  But first and foremost, (we) want people to come to the Alamodome and root for us, for UTSA, for that to be the drive.  Not the opponent.”

It’s also possible that UTSA could be talking to some members of the lower-level Football Championship Subdivision.  The Roadrunners opened with Alabama State of the FCS Southwestern Athletic Conference this season.  They will play another member of the SWAC, Southern University, La., next year.

Hickey said she is trying to avoid scheduling more than two Power 5 teams in any one season.  Because of UTSA’s situation as a start-up several years ago, it scheduled three Power 5s in 2015.  UTSA also is scheduled to play three Power 5s in 2018.

“What you want to do as far as the conference is concerned is to come out of non-conference at least .500,” she said.  “And (the C-USA office) would also like to have a really good game for television, at home.  Then, we have responsibility for our program to schedule what you call a money game, so that we’re helping with the financial end.  

“So when you look at that, yes, two (against the Power 5, per season) is plenty.  For the first time, we’re going to be able to put a balanced schedule out that is better for our team to get prepared for conference play, to dangle some good home games for our fans, but (will) enable us to be successful and go into the conference.”

UTSA remains winless at 0-8 in competition against the Power 5.  The Roadrunners held a 16-point lead at home earlier this season but gave it up in losing to Arizona State, 32-28.  UTSA is a 27-point underdog against Texas A&M.

The Roadrunners play eight C-USA games a year within a 12-game schedule. Here is a look at non-conference games that have already been booked on UTSA’s future schedules:

Sept. 2 -- Houston
x-Sept. 9 -- At Baylor
Sept. 16 – Southern (of Baton Rouge, La.)
Sept. 23 -- At Texas State

x-Sept. 1 -- At Arizona State
x-Sept. 8 -- Baylor
x-Sept. 15 -- At Kansas State
Sept. 22 -- Texas State

x-Sept. 7 -- At Baylor
x-Nov. 2 -- At Texas A&M 

Sept. 12 -- At Texas State
Sept. 26 -- At Memphis

x-Sept. 4 -- At Illinois
Sept. 11 -- Texas State
Sept. 25 -- Memphis

Sept. 3 -- At Houston
Sept. 10 -- At Texas State

Sept. 2 -- Houston
Sept. 9 -- Texas State

Aug. 31 -- At Houston
Sept. 7 -- At Texas State

Sept 5 -- Texas State

x-Power 5 conference opponents

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