An Oakland Raiders Move to San Antonio Would Harm Growth of UTSA

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

As chatter of an Oakland Raiders move to San Antonio emanates, there is an important number to keep in mind: 56,743.

When the UT-San Antonio football program played its first game in Sept. 2011, 56,473 fans filled the Alamodome to watch the Roadrunners trounce Div. II Northeastern State, 31-3. That’s nearly 7,000 fans more than the Raiders’ average home attendance in 2013, and it’s also a testament to the potential of UTSA football.

“Kind of expect that for a national championship, but one game?” UTSA head coach Larry Coker said afterward, per GoUTSA.com. “This is maybe the most awesome game I’ve ever been around. I’m being totally honest with you.”

Considering Coker coached one of the most dominant college football teams in recent memory, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, that’s quite the statement. Of course, Coker never coached a game in front of a city as hungry for football as San Antonio.

Fans flocked to the Orange Bowl during Miami’s run in the early 2000s. But in a city where the NFL’s Dolphins are entrenched in the landscape, it takes national championship-caliber performance to move the needle.

It’s a problem the Hurricanes’ current coach, Al Golden, faces every week. Online columnists gleefully share images of an empty Sun Life Stadium, the venue the Hurricanes share with the Dolphins, seemingly every home-game Saturday.

And that’s Miami, a program with an established track record for success. At Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia, Golden’s previous stop, the Temple Owls regularly played in front of unoccupied seats despite enjoying their greatest success in three decades.

In a town dominated by the Philadelphia Eagles, carving a niche is a challenge for Temple. And that’s precisely the reality UTSA would be faced with shoulde the Oakland Raiders move to San Antonio.

UTSA is a burgeoning program, entering just its fourth year of competition. The 2014 is the Roadrunners’ first as full-fledged FBS members, which means they’re eligible for postseason play for the first time. Experts such as Phil Steele project them to capitalize with a bowl bid, if not a place in the Conference USA Championship Game.

That’s much more competitive than the Raiders have been for the last decade, but the Raiders’ lack of success wouldn’t hinder local interest.

The Raiders aren’t going to roll into San Antonio and become the city’s sports darlings. That’s a role the five-time NBA champion Spurs fill just fine. The Raiders are ineptly run, which is the reason discussion of a move is even gaining traction.

But bad NFL or not, it’s still the NFL. The league is the undisputed heavyweight of not only American sports, but American entertainment. That Shield logo in and of itself is enough to command the spotlight–particularly in a city with just one pro sports franchise and a college team brand new to the scene.

Well-established college programs have proven more than capable of competing with the NFL for local attention. Florida and Florida State have no problem overshadowing the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Michigan’s in no danger of losing audience in droves to Detroit Lions games. Adding another NFL franchise to South Texas would have no impact on Texas or Texas A&M.

But a four-year old program lacks that kind of clout, and C-USA is not competing with the NFL for eyeballs.

Right now, any discussion of the Raiders moving into the Alamodome is inane chatter. More than likely, San Antonio is a negotiating ploy for Mark Davis to twist arms of business leaders and political officials in California. The organization’s tweets on the matter were cryptic, if not dismissive.

Coker is setting a solid foundation for a program with sky-high potential. UTSA is building something for the long term the right way; the last thing it needs is to have that growth stifled by an organization that’s failed elsewhere.