Thursday, July 16, 2015

UTA Football Find

Apologies if you've read the article I'm about to start a discussion on, as it was initially published in December, but I ran across this, a football faces uphill battle article, posted online from the Arlington voice.

It begins by noting that the University of Alabama-Birmingham has dropped its football program and it might bring sore feelings for UTA faithful (they have since announced they are bringing it back). However, that is really all I have to agree in the article with as there is little fact, quotes or references in there, only loose connections that don't really apply.

The author transitions from UAB to UTA with this:

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the fateful day in November 1985 when the guillotine fell on UTA’s football program in much the same fashion, and with very similar reaction in and around the campus community.

Two days before the end, the Mavericks had been nipped by North Texas State (now the University of North Texas), 23-20, at Fouts Field in Denton to complete a 4-6-1 campaign.

The previous week, UTA played what would be its final game at Maverick Stadium, losing, 29-14, to Louisiana Tech before a crowd of 4,800.

In an ironic touch after the game, then-UTA head coach Chuck Curtis expressed a sense of optimism about the Mavericks’ football program.

“This football team has got a bright future,” Curtis said. “They (the players) have come a long way.”

Nine days later, former UTA president Dr. Wendell Nedderman made the announcement that sent shockwaves throughout the Metroplex and placed Maverick Stadium at the epicenter.

Coach Curtis was right. If his team had been allowed to return in 1986, they would have returned 11 offensive starters, 8 defensive and both kickers from a team that was 7 points out of a tie for the SLC championship. Several of those players went on to Southwest Conference schools. Many others went to rival Southland Conference or similar schools and left a mark. Many quit and stayed at UTA to graduate. The coach that would win the conference and go to the 1-AA national title game the following year said UTA would have been the team to beat. I will always wonder what if they had attained that kinda success, what would have happened to the support.

The author then begins a loose timeline of the football resurrection movement/action at UTA:

Talk of bringing football back to the campus has ebbed and flowed for the last 25 years. A petition in 2006 bearing approximately 3,000 names was presented to the school’s vice president of Student Affairs, who promised to submit the petition to then-president Dr. James Spaniolo.

However, a subsequent demonstration at the E.H. Hereford University Center drew only 50 participants, about half of what the student group Mavericks for Football Now was expecting.

Now I may be wrong,  but either the date is wrong, or a monumentous event is missing. As a student, I was part of a student-led movement that put resurrecting the football program to a student body vote and approved 2-1. It would have authorized more money for the Athletic Department to go to football, women's soccer and women's golf. There was a march to Maverick Stadium that drew a small, disappointing turnout. If there was another pro-football event with a similar, but not exact, MO two years later, I am unaware of it.

The article then mentions the competing petitions this past year, one to show support for adding a football team, one to show disapproval of the same.

In September, a junior health administration student, Christina Chacko, started a new petition to bring a new UTA football squad back to Maverick Stadium. A month later, approximately 1,500 signatures had been applied to the proposal, about 15 percent of the response that Chacko was hoping for.

At around the same time, the UTA student publication, The Shorthorn, ran a survey to gauge interest in bringing back football to the campus. Sixty-six percent of the participants voted in favor of the movement.


However, at the same time, a second petition was started by another student, Skyler Vasquez, that called for the abolition of football on campus to remain intact.

Vasquez expressed concerns that a return of football would eclipse the school’s academic advancement in medical, engineering and other fields of research.

I've got a few issues. It makes the presentation that the first petition was a dud because it didn't get the wanted amount of signatures. Then it brings up the counter-petition. What was its goal? How many signatures did it garner? It got far, far less out of the gate then the pro-football did. However, it is presented here as an equal pull against a football team from the student body.

The only true measure of the student body's thoughts on football was the student fee vote, money that would come out of those who were voting, and it passed 2-1 in 2004.

While discussing the pro-petition, the article mentioned the attendance numbers for two of the five major spectator sports of campus.

In the three years since moving into the College Park Center for men’s basketball, UTA has averaged 2,304 in attendance (capacity: 7,000), while averaging 372 for baseball at Clay Gould Ballpark (capacity: 1,600) in the same three-year span (2012-14).

I also don't like the way this is presented. By adding the capacity, it makes it seem like the teams draw terribly. The men's basketball team draws just under 33% of its venue's capacity. UTA finished third in the Sun Belt Conference this past season in men's basketball attendance, 13 attendees per game behind Louisiana-Monroe 2,064 to 2,051. Not blistering numbers and the SBC didn't fair well in the NCAA as a whole, 23rd in attendance out of 32 conferences. However, it took a late surge by ULM in a postseason tournament to overtake UTA, (3,003, 3,368 and 4,460 in its last three home games). UTA used to be at the bottom of a conference in attendance and near the bottom in the NCAA. That is no longer the case in regards to either point.

By singling out only two spectator sports, it misses the successes of other sports, both internally and within the conference. Volleyball, which finished second in the SBC in attendance, had some well attended matches. Is the 1,200 plus versus Texas State any smaller because CPC seats 7,000? Women's basketball averaged over 1,000 per game for the first time ever. Though they finished 7th in the SBC at 1,031, the SBC as a whole had the 11th best attendance average in the NCAA, once again out of 32 conferences.

As far as baseball and softball go, I've said it before and I'll repeat it here. Due to their isolated location not just on campus, but in Arlington as well, they will continue to struggle for attendance. That said, the baseball team finished middle-of-the-pack in attendance, though far off from the leaders, in the SBC, despite a losing record overall and a just-over-.500 home record this year.

Up until this point, the article has had hard numbers, even if somewhat skewed, to make its point. From here, it goes somewhere else, and I believe all somewhat-relevant facts this article produced are done, and we are really just reading one big editorial.

History has proven that the odds of UTA resurrecting its football program are extremely long.

Within 11 years of the suspension of the sport at UTA, three other universities with comparable football histories to UTA – University of the Pacific, California State University-Fullerton and Long Beach State – also dropped football.

To date, none of the schools have returned to the gridiron, even though the state of California is almost as tradition-rich in football as Texas is.

This is anecdotal and has no impact on UTA. What are their enrollments? What was it when they dropped football? How does their athletic funding compare to UTA's? How does their state's economy affect University funding? What markets are they in? What competition do they have in said market? What's their city and regional population? How many alumni live in said market? I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. Meanwhile, several schools, like aforementioned UAB, have started a program from scratch (twice now actually) and two of UTA's current conference mates, Georgia State and South Alabama have done the same. UTA's old Southland Conference mate UTSA has done the same and now plays in Conference USA. All these schools are playing at the highest level.

Let's see, what am I missing...dropped football within 11 years...comparable football history...returned football...UTA's old conference mates...LAMAR AND SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA!!!!!

Southeastern dropped the sport after the conclusion of the 1985 season, the same time UTA did. They returned at the 1-AA/FCS level in time to play the 2003 season. Lamar dropped theirs in 1989, and as founding members of the same conference and dropping the sport in the same decade, it is harder for me to imagine another school with a more similar history than UTA, they resurrected the sport in 2010. Now granted they too play at the 1-AA/FCS level, but the author makes no claim that no 1-A/FBS school has resurrected football.

So this point is either just plain wrong, or misleadingly incomplete.

The author then goes ... somewhere.

In February 1987, the NCAA levied the most severe penalty in collegiate sports history on the SMU football program, delivering the “death penalty,” which completely suspended football operations at the university for a year for blatant repeat violations of NCAA rules.

Subsequently, SMU self-imposed a second year of suspension, leaving the school void of football for both the 1987 and ’88 seasons.

There were hopes within the Arlington football community that UTA could bring its program back at the same time SMU did in 1989, but those aspirations never materialized.

In 1986, UTA began allowing Arlington public schools to use Maverick Stadium on a regular basis (the four Arlington high schools were allowed to play one game a year there beginning in 1981).

Arlington High School has used Maverick Stadium as its home field in all but one year (2011) since 1986. In recent years, Pantego Christian Academy was allowed to play its home games on the UTA campus.

What does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China? SMU returned football, UTA didn't at the same

Arlington area high schools used to use Maverick Stadium sometimes when UTA had a team. Now they use it

The author then finds two former students at UTA who said they might consider if they would have maybe liked to try to play for a spot on a team if UTA had actually had one. This is the one time where it seems the author is having a bias toward a team, but it is still irrelevant to any central point of the headline of UTA facing long odds of returning football. I don't think it is a stretch to say at any school some members of the student body would try to walk-on.

The article then concludes with this:

On New Year’s Day, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl will be played for the sixth time at AT&T Stadium, followed 11 days later by the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the same site.

The stadium has also been the site of an annual college football kickoff game each of the last five years.

If having three important college football games in the city of Arlington doesn’t spark interest in bringing football back to the largest university without it in the nation’s football hotbed, it is difficult to imagine what would.

Again, I don't know what one has to do with the other. So important games with non-related institutions are played up the road, therefore UTA should be energized for a team?

I'd counter it's these games that take away from attendance and support of UTA sports. UTA is in a sports saturated market with lots and lots of competition. The U has to work harder than other peer schools for the same attention because they are drowned out by competition such as games at Jerry World.

In short, I'm glad there was an article that keeps attention of the topic, but holy cow its hard for me to imagine a more flawed article. I'm a fan or either pro or con that is well reasoned and articulated with solid backing. This had neither.

No comments:

Post a Comment