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Ed. Note: This guest article was written by long-time podcast listener Mongo Watson. If you have an opinion or story you’d like to share with the community please submit your pitch at this link.
I remember Jeff Traylor’s introductory press conference like it was yesterday. And after it was over, I remember asking myself the same question that every Roadrunner fan asked themselves that day.
“Did he really say, ‘fish grease?’”
Which, of course, was quickly followed by the rhetorical, “I’m not sure I fully understand what that means, but it sounds slightly sexual, so I’m all in.”
But he said something else that day – something I, and I suspect most Roadrunner fans, took for standard coach-speak. Jeff Traylor said that he needed all of us to get involved.
Of course he did. That’s what all new coaches say at their introductory press conferences. So, I didn’t think much about it at the time. But as the seasons have passed, I realized that Jeff Traylor said more than I gave him credit for.
Coach Traylor is a highly intelligent person. This is no big revelation to those of us who have watched him work since arriving on campus. But even so, I don’t think we give him enough credit for how smart he really is. And part of it is his fault. He smears big globs of East Texan on everything he says, so that I’m mildly surprised he doesn’t end every sentence with, “ah shucks.” But when he said, “it will take all of us,” he wasn’t talking about building a football team or even growing an athletics program. No, he was really telling us how to build a university. The son of two educators laid out the plan for how we turn UTSA into one of nation’s finest schools, but it took me about three years to finally hear it.
Which brings me to Taylor Eighmy. I love Dr. Eighmy. From his very first day on the job, he has been unafraid to think big and unafraid to act big. And his vision for UTSA is far-reaching. He’s positioning it to be one of San Antonio’s crown jewels – a social, cultural, and economic driver. He sees the futures of UTSA and San Antonio as intrinsically tied, like two members of a family. This means he is working to bring more San Antonians into the UTSA family, as students and as supporters.
Dr. Eighmy calls athletics the front porch of the university. This is another way of saying, athletics makes community. That’s not prioritizing sports over education. Just the opposite. Education is the key. But it’s not easy to create community around a math program, as important as it may be. But athletics brings us together. Or to put this in terms all San Antonians can identify with, Dr. Eighmy wants to be part of the neighborhood, so he smoked some ribs and bought some beer and invited everyone over. Because in San Antonio that’s what families do. They break bread.
Were you at the inaugural football game? I was, and I will always remember looking around the Dome and seeing over 50,0000 people wearing blue and orange, and I understood in a way I hadn’t before, that I was part of a community of UTSA graduates. I had never seen so many of us in one place, and I was hooked.
But UTSA has needs. Athletically, we are moving into the AAC. But we are short on facilities, on NIL money for our student-athletes, and on resources for our programs.
Beyond athletics, UTSA is expanding its downtown campus, strengthening its academic programs, growing its enrollment, furthering its commitment to a diverse student population, and asking us to Be Bold. If Dr. Eighmy realizes his vision, it will transform UTSA into the pit master we always thought it could be. Sorry, I’m hungry as I write this. (I also see Texas State and UNT as the two guys you send to the store for more ice.) But it will take all of us. Jeff Traylor told us so.
And what about San Antonio? If UTSA and San Antonio are family, then what happens in the city impacts the UTSA. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, San Antonio is the new home of Victor Wembanyama. Which means, San Antonio’s trajectory as a city just changed, dramatically. Yes, the Spurs have had great players in the past – hall of fame players. But none of them embraced the worldwide spotlight like Wembanyama has. And most of the world knows San Antonio through the Spurs. It is the front porch of the city.
The Spurs are family. The team is one of two things that bring all San Antonians together, the other being Fiesta (and free things, yes, free things). The Roadrunners need to join that list. We sit at an inflection point. We have a rare opportunity, one that doesn’t come around often. Will we take advantage of it and grow, or will we sit back and let the moment slip away? (What would Red McCombs do? Bet on community. No doubt).
We can choose to grow, but that alone is short-sighted. We should also choose how we grow. We can grow like a certain city to the north that used to be poor and weird and now is just rich and pretentious, or we can grow in a way that supports family and community. Investing in UTSA and in the parts of UTSA that bring us all together, is an investment in us. That’s the difference. It’s what makes San Antonio special, and it will make UTSA great. Just ask Jeff Traylor. LFG!!!!
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