SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — Southwest Texas State University‘s Bobcats will get their shot at playing big-time college football after action taken Friday by the school‘s board of regents.
The Texas State University System Board of Regents has given the go-ahead to university administrators to implement a plan aimed at landing SWT in college football‘s most elite category, Division I-A of the NCAA. SWT is currently a member of Division I-AA of the NCAA.
University President Jerome Supple said he believed the Bobcats could compete successfully in I-A.
"We have shown over the years in non-football sports that we are perfectly capable of competing at the premier level. I don‘t think there‘s any question that we can compete in football at the premier level as well. And I don‘t think there‘s any question that now is the time to take this important step," said Supple.
The process of securing a spot in Division I-A could take four years, and the university must meet some critical conditions during that time. Bobcat Stadium, which seats 14,000, must be expanded to a capacity of 17,000 in time for the 2000 football season. Attendance at football games must average at least 17,000 for the next four years for the university to be eligible for Division I-A status.
At any time during the four-year process, the university could become automatically eligible for Division I-A if it increases stadium capacity to 30,000.
In Division I-A, SWT will be able to offer 85 football scholarships instead of the Division I-AA limit of 63.
The board also directed university officials to secure membership in an appropriate Division I-A conference at the time it enters the new division.
SWT Athletic Director Jim Wacker said the timing for the move to I-A was perfect. He predicted the development of regional athletic conferences that would alter or replace existing conferences where member schools are sometimes thousands of miles apart.
SWT, he said, could be an important part of such a conference in the Southwest, and would be attractive because of its size, academic reputation and location.
"What we‘re betting on is that regionalism is going to win, that geography is going to win. Common sense is going to win, and that‘s going to be good for college football," said Wacker.
Wacker said he believed the move to I-A would be good for the entire university, not just the athletic program.
"When you go to Division I-A football, it elevates everything, every program at the university," he said.
Bobcat football coach Bob DeBesse was enthusiastic about the board's action.
"This is an unprecedented day in the history of Southwest Texas State University," he said. "For me personally, both as head football coach and an alum, it is an incredibly exciting day. I appreciate the board‘s trust and confidence. This will definitely increase the quality and prestige of the university."
In related action, the board authorized the university to hire Graeber, Simmons and Cowan Architects of Austin to provide consulting services for expanding Bobcat Stadium to a capacity of 17,000 by fall 2000 and to prepare a proposal for future expansion to 30,000 seats.
The regents also approved preliminary plans prepared by Graeber, Simmons and Cowan for athletic facilities improvements, including a new end zone complex and modifications to Strahan Coliseum and Jowers Center.