UIW to add football
Web Posted: 04/16/2007 05:58 PM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
University of the Incarnate Word president Louis Agnese will announce Tuesday the school is starting a football program and could begin play as soon as 2009, sources told the San Antonio Express-News on Monday.
The announcement will come at 2 p.m. at a news conference at the McDermott Convocation Center on the school’s campus.
New Orleans Saints owner and UIW booster Tom Benson will attend the news conference with his wife Gayle and several Saints players to help Agnese make the announcement.
Benson, a San Antonio auto magnate and banker with strong ties to the city and school, funded the faculty chair for banking and finance at UIW two decades ago.
Agnese told the Express-News in 2004 that UIW has discussed adding football twice during his 19-year-tenure as president, but because of a desire for equal numbers of male and female athletes, a football program has never come to fruition.
Also in 2004, Lone Star Conference officials visited the school in what the league’s commissioner called a “fact-finding mission.”
UIW is currently a member of the Heartland Conference and competes with the LSC in NCAA Division II.
Old Tommy Benson is such a tease:
Asked if the agreement diminishes San Antonio's chances of joining the NFL, Benson said, "No, I always said I thought San Antonio would be a great NFL city ... right now, we have four more years on a lease in Louisiana, and we all know about the tragedies there. We can't get involved in thinking about moving. We have to help that city and state restore itself, and then we'll see how things play out.
"But San Antonio, in my opinion, is ready for an NFL club whether it's the Saints or an expansion club. They have my support. If it's not mine, I would certainly support someone else coming here."
I think the list went somethign liek this:
1) get enough women's athletics to get teh ratio up
2)Get basketball program back in line with new coach
3)Try to move in to conference USA or other more prominant one.
I also remember hearing we would play at the alamodome, but the school actually wanted to play in their own stadium on campus to promote the campus community.
so all in time. Int eh meantime if you really really want UTSA footbal and your an alumnus, send a few bucks to the athloetics program. we might not have billionaire alumni, but we certainly have a tens of thousands of graduaes that could donate small amounts.
Mike Finger: We've come a long way, or have we?
Tom Benson says "the timing is right," which should make the folks at Incarnate Word a bit nervous. In matters of football, dollars and San Antonio, Benson's internal clock has malfunctioned before.
But whether he's been selling cars or racking up millions in banking, he's always been able to do the right math. And when he crunched the numbers on his longtime goal of bringing big-time football to the city he calls his second home?
He likely came to the only logical conclusion.
That this — a Division II start-up program at UIW — is as good as it's going to get.
Benson still publicly says he thinks San Antonio is ready for an NFL team, and part of him probably wishes that were true. But he knows as well as anyone it's not going to happen. His lease with the Superdome keeps the Saints in New Orleans through at least 2010, and even when that ends, San Antonio still won't have a viable stadium option.
Local leaders finally have done the same math and realized that pursuing new pro sports franchises would be pointless. Bexar County consultant Michael Sculley said as much last month when he urged commissioners to forget plans to woo the NFL and Major League Baseball, two leagues who have always seen San Antonio more as a bargaining chip than a true expansion possibility.
So only 16 months after the Saints were headquartered downtown and Benson had realistic thoughts of keeping them here for good, he came back Tuesday to offer the city a consolation prize.
It's actually a pretty good one. The people at UIW were justifiably giddy Tuesday, because they're about to fill one of the most gaping sports voids in the country.
Until Benson whipped out his checkbook for a gift he said could end up as big as $30 million, there were no scholarship football programs in the nation's seventh-largest city. In the town that produced Kyle Rote, Tommy Nobis and Priest Holmes, the Division III Trinity Tigers were the biggest team in the city limits.
UTSA had hoped to be the school to make the big gridiron leap, but that's proven to be an eternally slow struggle. No one knows if the Roadrunners ever will raise enough money to make any headway, and things are looking so bleak that when the student government called for a vote to increase fees, it was afraid to use the word "football" in the ballot language.
Turns out, UTSA should have been less worried about semantics and more concerned with finding a sugar daddy. Whereas UIW has Benson and St. Mary's has Valero CEO Bill Greehey, UTSA has no one to turn to when it comes time to erecting a multimillion-dollar sports facility.
Not that Benson has limited himself to shoulder pads and stadiums. A Roman Catholic who says he identifies with UIW's faith-based curriculum, Benson donated money to help the school's banking and finance programs, and his daughter has served on the university's board of trustees.
But this will be his biggest investment, and he pulled out all the stops to commemorate it. Many schools have announced plans to start Division II football programs, but few have done so with an NFL general manager and a Pro Bowl defensive end in attendance.
Will Smith, the standout Saints lineman who tagged along with Benson for Tuesday's ceremony and once lived just up the road from UIW when the Saints played in San Antonio, said he agreed to make an appearance because players were told they'd get credit for an offseason workout if they attended. It was only a joke, but on how many NFL teams would such an idea even have been plausible?
Think Jerry Jones would ever ask Greg Ellis to come with him to make a donation to a school in Little Rock? Or that Bob McNair would ever bring Mario Williams along for a ribbon-cutting in Saratoga Springs?
The truth is, Benson brought the players because he wanted a show, and because he wants to be a big deal here. This is the city where he made the bulk of his fortune, but it's also the place where he wanted to bring his one true sports passion.
Now, after trying and failing before, he's finally done it.
It's not as big as he once thought it'd be.
But in San Antonio, it's big enough.
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