Although the UTSA football program is uncertain as to when they will reach their goal of becoming an independent of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), previously Division 1-A, head coach Larry Coker and his staff are off to a great start after a successful signing day last Wed. where the school inked its first 25 student-athletes.

Tentative plans to join the Southland by 2013 were scratched due to mixed responses from the community; currently, the 12-team Southland plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly Division 1-AA- one level below the FBS.

UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey understands the complexities raised by a potential exodus of the Southland, home to UTSA’s other 16 Division I teams.

“It is a very difficult issue for the other schools in the conference,” Hickey said of the Southland. “I understand that there will be concerns because they want the conference to stay together but the conversations I’ve had with other athletic directors and the commissioner [Tom Burnett] have been positive and everybody’s been supportive of why we’re doing this.”

Hickey believes that the formula set forth by the University of South Florida will be a useful to guide for UTSA. “I think they’re a great program,” Hickey said of the South Florida Bulls. “Their demographics are a lot like ours. 13 years ago they were about where UTSA is now.”

USF began college football play as a 1-AA independent in 1997, moved to 1-A in 2001, and then to Conference USA in 2003. They ultimately left for the Big East in 2005 and would reach as high as No. 2 in various national rankings.

Although the decision to join a FBS conference ultimately lies out of the hands of UTSA, Hickey has made fundamental moves that will facilitate meeting the five NCAA requirements in order to be considered for Division I membership.

UTSA presently offers 200 athletic scholarships and competes in 16 intercollegiate sports. The program has already raised $2 million in contributions, well in route to funding the 85 football scholarships.

UTSA and San Antonio, the second-largest city in Texas, will provide an ample population to fulfill the FBS requirement to average at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance at home games for a rolling two-year period.

UTSA associate athletic director Ross Cobb told the San Antonio Express that possible FBS opponents have responded “extremely favorably” to the prospect of playing in San Antonio- prospective institutions must schedule and play at least 60 percent of its football contests against FBS members.

NCAA FBS independents are four-year institutions whose football programs are not a part of an NCAA-affiliated conference; there are only three independents in the FBS- Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.

The Roadrunners will begin play as an independent in the FCS in 2011.

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