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Are you ready for some football in San Antonio?

The students at UT-San Antonio has approved a fee increase that would enable them to add a football program at the school.

The results of this week’s vote, announced Thursday, mean student athletic fees may incrementally increase from a maximum of $120 per semester to a maximum of $240 a semester. While the money will generally go to improvements for the school’s athletics programs, the vote also is a first step toward eventually creating a football team.

Almost 66 percent of the 4,600 votes cast were in favor of the increase.

The NCAA Division I school, with an enrollment of nearly 29,000 students, already sponsors 16 sports.

Marianne McBride Lewis, a university spokeswoman, said the earliest the school could have a team is 2010, but that’s “really optimistic.”

She said to create a team the school will need additional financial support from outside donors, since tuition money and state funding can’t be used for athletics.

The school’s administration and the University of Texas System Board of Regents still each has to approve the increase. The first incremental increase could go into effect next fall, Lewis said.

I have to say, I’m surprised it took UTSA this long to do this. While there already is a fine collegiate football program in San Antonio, it’s not exactly a big one. There’s a void in San Antonio for something like Division IA football – there’s literally no other competition for it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Roadrunners draw 40,000+ fans per game from the get go. This has the potential to be huge for UTSA, if for no other reason than the boost in prestige and visibility, as this Express News editorial observes.

Academics represent the foundation of a university, but athletic programs add prestige, and prestige, in turn, enhances academics, creating a positive, vibrant cycle.

Football programs also help attract students from beyond the area, a phenomenon that could help UTSA grow from a commuter school to a higher tier university.

University officials — and students — should view the prospects with guarded optimism, but there is no denying it: The outlook is bright.

Now just because the students approved this doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Besides the board of regents, there will be pragmatic issues like where the team will play, since an appropriate stadium doesn’t currently exist on campus. That could lead to a political fight.

[UTSA Athletic Director Lynn] Hickey confirmed UTSA would ask for $50 million from the county to help fund an on-campus athletics complex.

UTSA is expected to deliver the message at her presentation to a county athletics facilities committee hearing Sept. 25.

The UTSA athletics complex is planned as a facility to be shared by the university and the community.

It will include a core building for athletics offices, plus stadiums for baseball, softball, track, soccer and tennis. It also would serve as a training site for football.

While [Bexar County Judge Nelson] Wolff said the county likely would include UTSA’s complex on its funding list of amateur sports complexes in next year’s election, he said a $50 million slice of the package probably isn’t in the cards.

“It’s probably going to be difficult to get that much,” Wolff said. “We’ll have to leave that up to the task force. But I think they will step up and do something significant.”

The team would start out at the Alamodome, which is grossly underutilized now, but it wouldn’t shock me if there’s a push to build a stadium on campus some day, especially if the team is successful on the field early on. From a student’s perspective, that’s always going to be better, and from the university’s viewpoint, it’s better to be an owner than a tenant. We’ll see how that eventually plays out. Stace and Dig Deeper Texas have more.

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