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COMMENTARY by BRENT THIBODEAUX

Texas State’s move to the Sun Belt Conference is not getting good reviews so far via social media and commentators at BobcatReport.com.

People are calling it a step down from the pre-implosion Western Athletic Conference, trading Louisiana Tech and Utah State for Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky.

But the decision is made and, now that it’s official, Texas State has no choice but to make the most of their new home. And it may not be a bad deal. Really. Let’s look at how this this move could be very beneficial to Texas State’s football ambitions.

Ready to compete on Day One

Let’s be honest here. Football is the big driver of attention and attendance at Texas State and most universities. No offense to baseball, basketball, soccer or any other sport but Bobcat Nation wants to win in football more than in any other sport. Being in the Sun Belt allows Texas State to do that quickly.

Arkansas State hopes to repeat last seasons success under new head coach Gus Malzahn. The Red Wolves went 10-3 including 8-0 in conference last season. Western Kentucky finished 7-1 in the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Lafayette went 6-2.

Outside of that, the Sun Belt lacks any team that went .500 in conference let alone win more than four games in 2011. If you want Texas State to win sooner rather than later, the Sun Belt is the answer. If you want Texas State to play in a bowl game sooner rather than later … again, the Sun Belt is the answer.

UTSA to Conference USA

It seems Texas State fans feel left out of the party again as they watch UTSA move to Conference USA while the Bobcats head to the Sun Belt. Popular opinion seems to hold that UTSA just jumped into a stronger and more competitive conference.

Both Conference USA and Sun Belt are not an Automatic Qualifying conferences. The difference is the level of competition. Conference USA has stronger teams and San Antonio swung an invitation with an asset San Marcos can’t match — the San Antonio TV market.

Texas State fans should be wishing UTSA luck —then sit back and watch the train wreck that will soon be Roadrunner football.

Remember this is the same UTSA team that took it on the chin from Division II McMurray at home this past season. How will they fare against Southern Miss, East Carolina, Tulsa and Marshall? It’s not looking good for Larry Coker’s bunch at this moment.

In 2013, UTSA faces a daunting non-conference lineup including New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Houston and Virginia. The next year, it doesn’t get any better… Houston, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, New Mexico and Virginia.

Will they compete? It’s possible. But will they win? Highly unlikely.

Barring a dramatic change, UTSA looks to be at nothing better than a three to four win team over the next several season and living near the bottom of Conference USA heading into the 2015 season.

Remember the Baylor Bears

I feel UTSA is on the path of following the footsteps of the Baylor Bear football program in the mid-90’s. It was a school that wanted to compete on the field but everyone — including the Baylor president — knew it would take many years, and lots of donor money, to develop the program.

Let’s not forget once the Southwest Conference dismantled, Baylor was asked to join the Big 12 while TCU was shunned and ended up in the WAC.

Do you think Baylor Bear fans want to remember how they enjoyed the Big 12 for many years? They joined the Big 12 conference in 1996 and didn’t taste any success till their bowl game in 2010.

Meanwhile, TCU — coached at the time by Texas State’s head coach Dennis Franchione — went 8-4 in their first WAC season and went on to beat East Carolina in the Mobile Alabama Bowl. Instant success for the Horned Frog nation.

Winning cures all

Given time once the new move to the Sun Belt simmers down, focus will turn to the results on the field. Winning will cure all the fans that are not happy about the move. Bowl games will cure all who wished Texas State was in Conference USA. Conference championships will bring back the people that refused to support their Bobcats because of their conference. Winning will bring greater talent to the Texas State football program.

Today is not a bad day for Texas State

Texas State will need to bring their lunch pail because they will need to work hard in the Sun Belt to prove they belong.

Will they succeed? That is all in the hands of the coaches and decision makers at the university but today is a step to finding quick success in the Sun Belt.

Most importantly, at the end of the day, Texas State has a ticket to ride with a Football Bowl Subdivision conference, securing that Division I dream shared by Bobcats for years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I accidentally posted an earlier draft of this article this morning. I’ve updated the post with changes throughout.

BRENT THIBODEAUX is publisher of BobcatReport.com, the exclusive Texas State affiliate of the Yahoo! Sports Rivals.com network. This story is published here through a partnership between BobcatReport.com and the San Marcos Mercury.

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22 thoughts on “Why Texas State’s conference move isn’t a disaster

  1. Gus Malzahn did not take the Arkansas state job until December of 2011, so he had nothing to do with their record last year.

    However, I agree with the premise of your article. Winning will be easier in the Sun Belt, and winning is what we need if we want to play with the big boys…

  2. No, it is a disaster. Your commentary doesn’t even really say otherwise. You just make the point that life goes on and some good may come of it. True enough, but this is not what the school wanted. Also, it seems to have either caught their athletic administration by surprise, or they looked everywhere for somewhere to go, and this was the only option. If it was a surprise, someone should be held to account. If this was the best the ‘Rising Star’ could do, then let’s stop spending money on athletic facilities that could go to the Education Dept or the Geography school or other rising programs.

  3. I’ll reserve judgment until the end of the 2013 season, at least.

    We had a very good year for recruiting. It is time to turn that into results on the field. To say that last year was disappointing, would be an understatement. Even with the strong recruiting, we are going to be in a world of hurt against FBS competition, if we don’t get some fundamental issues under control.

    Winning may cure everything, but it is not the only cure, and it is not a cure that we are likely to see in the next few years. TXST cannot afford to wait for winning, before trying to build a fan base. UTSA, like many other programs, in many cities (large and small) has shown us that there is more to filling the stadium than just wins and losses. TXST needs to take note of their outreach to the community, and do the same here.

    FBS football us a great feather in the cap for San Marcos, and a great way to spend your Saturday afternoon. TXST needs to embrace San Marcos, the way that UTSA has embraced San Antonio.

    At the end of 2013, we will have had several years of recruiting, and several years of learning the new system. By then, we need to have a solid program, with strong local support, or the Baylor path will remain a very real possibility.

    I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming season, but there is plenty of work to be done.

  4. -Skeptical

    A disaster? That seems like a hyperbolic, knee jerk reaction to me. We are still moving up to the FBS level, with increased exposure, competition, and we can now play in bowls. Also, we joined the WAC in 2010 – no one could have predicted the kind of upheaval we have seen the past 2 years in college football. I suppose you would have expected both UT and A&M to know that they would never play each other again 2 years ago? The Sub Belt is a decent conference that is fairly stable, they want us, and they are better than the Southland – everybody please chill out. This isn’t the end of the road for Texas State – eat ’em up Cats!

    -Ted Marchut

    Texas State has several outreach programs in place with San Marcos – what more do you suggest they do?

  5. @lynx — C’mon. It is the worst FBS conference by far and it will bring increased travel costs without any name id for home opponents to drive attendance. All current rivalries are destroyed, and the playoffs we are leaving provide home games and more excitement than the bowl system which we will sit on the side and watch. It is stable, because most of the members have nowhere else to go. When they get a chance (North Texas) they bolt.

    The UT and A&M comparisons are silly; they both adjusted to a changing landscape in a way that will drive more revenue to their institution. TxSt adjusted in a way which will bring less (replace Nevada with Monroe and try to sell seats). Nobody says it is the end of the road; but I am surprised you can type “chill out” with your pom-poms on. Supporters of a school need to hold it accountable — it is healthier than blind allegiance.

  6. From what I saw on the field last year, we’re a ways away from being able to compete at the D1 level in any conference.

    Now, I do believe that Coach Fran is doing the right things to build a program but that will take time….and in that time C-USA sounds nice and all, but would it really be that nice when those guys beat us up and down the field week in and week out?

    Besides, the landscape of college sports is changing so rapidly, there’s no telling if C-USA, the WAC, or even the Sun Belt will exist in two years….worst case is that we build a strong enough program to attract larger conference suitors and climb the ladder that way.

  7. Actually I would say the worst case scenario is that TSU spends millions of dollars on sports infrastructure that sits largely empty as the power schools (UT Football Inc. and their ilk) run away with the money and interest…meanwhile tons of money and effort have been wasted trying to keep up with the bigger brother schools in the state and instead of doing so we remain largely an afterthought in the grand scheme of things…a very expensive afterthought…I would say concentrate on turning the baseball team into a power like Rice or Baylor – which seems actually realistic – and invest the rest of the money in trying to become a top tier research university which would benefit the school and its alumni much more in the long run than if TSU ever makes it to the Pac-N-Sac Bowl someday to play Tulane or UAB…

  8. -Ted

    Those are some sweet videos, but comparing UTSA to TxState is not fair. We basically sold out are stadium last year and didn’t need that kind of advertising in San Marcos. UTSA was trying to fill up the Alamo Dome with those videos. Could we have done more, sure, but it’s not a fair comparison.

    -Skeptical

    I’m not blindly devoted, nor am I irrationally negative. We have no where else to go. We have a 30k stadium that is already paid for, and we’re too big for the Southland. And my point with UT and A&M is valid – like I said, no one could have predicted the WAC would have come to this 2 years ago, when we joined. We don’t know how good we’re going to be until we start playing on that level, but I agree with Thibodeaux that we have a much better chance of being good in the Sun Belt, than a full fledged WAC. Bottom line is we are not as attractive as UTSA for obvious reasons, but winning will help a great deal. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, how could we have “adjusted” differently?

  9. No, we basically did not sell out last year. I was there for every game. We certainly weren’t turning people away, and now we have twice the seats to fill.

    If you have a better way, by all means, offer it up.

  10. It’s not as though those videos are beyond the capabilities of TXST, and there are countless examples of teams in cities our size filling larger stadiums.

  11. I personally think the ceiling for this school (football-wise) is much higher than North Texas, Nevada, and any other school in either the Sun Belt or WAC. We have the name, the size, and soon the facility to be a very respectable program.

    I’m not saying we will ever compete with UT on a regular basis, but then again they’re one of the top three or four programs in college football history. That being said, I see no real reason why we can’t build a solid program here that can at least be thought of on a par with A&M, Tech, and Houston.

    Oh, and don’t knock Baylor…..they have more conference championships in the Big 12 than all but three schools if you count all sports.

  12. -Ted

    I have season tickets, and even though every seat wasn’t filled for every game, our lowest attended game was 14,222 against Prairie View. Every other game but one was over 15k. The stadium capacity last year was 16k. So, we actually did almost sell out every game. Like I said earlier, we could have probably done a little more on the marketing front, but to compare us to UTSA and their situation is not a fair comparison. We just see it differently, I guess…

    -Dano

    I agree! If we catch the right coach at the right time, the ceiling here could be pretty high. Look at Boise and South Florida. The Broncos moved to the FBS less than 20 years ago (1996) to a conference that doesn’t even support college football anymore (Big West). The Bulls began their football program in 1997, and moved up to the FBS in 2001!

    Everyone please look at this thing long term – this is just the beginning.

  13. I am aware of the numbers. I believe they were:

    Tarleton: 15,800
    Nichols: 15,502
    Lamar: 15,028
    Northwestern: 14,473 (Homecoming)
    Prairie View: 14,222
    Sam Houston: 15,613

    Average: 15,106

    Suffice it to say, there were seats available, and we are shooting for UTSA numbers this year. We would do well to learn from them.

    Do you have some general opposition to pitching TXST as San Marcos’s team?

  14. Also, I don’t recall complaining about last year’s numbers, so I am not sure what point you are trying to argue, re: whether we could have done more last year.

    This year, 15,100 would be horrible, so we clearly need to do more than what we did last year.

  15. Community support can go well beyond attendance numbers, at a handful of games, to provide the resources required for a successful FBS program.

    There is no down side to building that local support.

  16. One bad conference to a worse conference. Sounds like we got the short end of the stick. UTSA has played one season of football and gets to play in a OK conference. Looks like Larry fell down on the job. We get to play schools that North Texas didn’t even want to play. I bet the boosters just can’t wait to come see schools that most people have never heard of. Good luck!

  17. Hey guys, I am an Arkansas State fan.. The perceptions of Sunbelt football are not good. Honestly Sunbelt football is in a better place. ASU lost two of its weakest members in N. Texas and FIU. FIU just recently had success but was on it’s way to be a horrible team again with the loss of major senior contribution. North Texas hasn’t won anything since the early 2000’s. The truth is we have a very competitive league with some really good coaches. Welcome to the league. Hope you make a trip to Jonesboro one day!

  18. For those calling the move a disaster, remember that Utah State, Louisiana Tech, and San Jose State are leaving. Had Texas State not joined the Sun Belt, they would likely be left with New Mexico State and Idaho looking for a home.

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