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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Email | Print