Athletics is officially coming to Texas A&M University-San Antonio after funds were approved by the Board of Regents on Aug. 8 following its approval in the Texas House Legislature in April. This development signals the next phase in implementing athletics to this campus.
Once the program is up and running, it will be the first intercollegiate athletics program in south Bexar County, according to Jeanette DeDiemar, Vice President of external advancement and communications at A&M-San Antonio.
“It really expands the university’s reach,” DeDiemar said. “It’s an expression of reaching beyond and further for the university name; student athletes bring a lot of pride as well, both from the academic rigor and athletic ability.”
According to a press release provided by the campus, A&M-San Antonio is scheduled to start four sport teams in the Fall semester of 2020; men’s and women’s soccer, men’s golf and softball. In the following years, the university is expected to open a brand new recreation and sports center along with more sport teams.
Students participated in a campus wide survey in spring of this year to voice their opinion on whether A&M-San Antonio should implement a student fee to fund an athletics program. According to a press release from campus communications, 13 percent of the 6,700 students at the time participated, about 876 students.
The student fee, as proposed to the Texas A&M Board of Regents, is to be set at $10 per credit hour maxing at $120 per semester, or $240 per academic year. This fee is not to affect cohorts before 2020. A staggering 86 percent of students voted in support for the fee, according to campus press documents.
“A lot of students really liked the idea, they saw the potential for growth,” said La-Tieka Sims, Student Government Association President. “I know at least when I was on shifts I tried to be as neutral as possible, there were of course students who didn’t like the idea because it would mean cost going up, but that’s expected. Overall the feedback was positive.”
Earlier in the month, A&M-San Antonio submitted its application to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and subsequently the Red River Athletics Conference (RRAC). The NAIA is set to convene in April 2020 to discuss A&M-San Antonio’s membership.
If accepted into the RRAC, A&M-San Antonio would be the largest of the seven campuses competing in the commission. The commission stretches across central Texas with the largest current member being the University of Houston-Victoria. Our Lady of the Lake University is the only other RRAC member in San Antonio.
“Upon submission, it’s in the hands of the association and the commision to consider it,” said Chief of Staff Jessica Loudermilk. “The next indicator of whether we are advancing through that process is, as I understand it, be a campus visit. If an institution were not selected for a campus visit it would mean that they selected to go further with the selection process.”
Membership with NAIA and RRAC not only allows A&M-San Antonio to compete with other collegiate bodies but also allows the campus to reward athletic scholarships.
To focus the efforts of working towards an athletic program, Campus President Cynthia Teniente-Matson has formed the Intercollegiate Athletics Implementation (ICAI) task force.
“[The task force] is a university wide effort to provide strategy and recommendations,” said DeDiemar. “Within that is the expertise that it brings; everything you could think of from logistics, to recruitment, to financial guidance and bringing that forward for recommendation.”
Upon approval of the student fee, members of the task force have recommended officially searching for an Athletics Director (AD) as part of a plan to reorganize the Department of Recreational Sports into the new Division of Athletics according to a memo sent out by President Matson on Oct. 21. The search was officially launched on the same day.
A search committee was formed to aid in finding someone for the AD position and will convene on the first week of November. According to the memo, the spot is to be filled by January 2020.
Further plans regarding campus athletics include phasing in more sport teams with the addition of an athletics recreation center to campus by Fall 2022. The new building would house NAIA regulation basketball and volleyball courts to house the incoming teams for those sports. There would also be a cafeteria set seat 500 students, a new bookstore and banking facility, as well as a Newman Center to serve as a student lounge.
The new building is also planned to house recreational and athletics sports administration.
“We have simply reached a point in our growth, and with now having residents on campus and expecting the number of campus residents to grow; it’s time to have a dedicated campus recreation center,” Loudermilk said. “There are some sports that we think are really viable for this campus and for the student population and with the absence of a sports center we wouldn’t be able to stand up sports teams for those. So there are sports that we otherwise that we wouldn’t have without a rec center, but athletics is not the only motivations for a rec center.”
According to officials familiar with the program, the implementation of athletics on campus would bring about an increased sense of pride and school spirit amongst the student population and the South Bexar County community.
“I can’t wait to come back to campus and however many years later and see things in full swing and see that knowing that I took part in making that happen.” Sims said. “To see the students who are excited about a game, the thought of that truly excites me.”