So some residents say that it was only fitting that Falls City was the first stop for the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners Road Trip, an annual event that promotes the UTSA football program in Texas areas and features a dinner with Roadrunners Head Football Coach Larry Coker.
The event marks the start of the second year of the Road Trip and was held at the Falls City Community Hall. The inside of the hall was decorated with the UTSA colors of orange and navy blue, along with the Roadrunners mascot image and other adornments that reflected the athletic pride and spirit that is UTSA football. Two projection screens also showed hard-hitting highlight footage of Roadrunners football games, inspiring locker room speeches by Coach Coker, and other gridiron action.
People who purchased tickets were treated to a catered dinner and were able to meet and greet Coach Coker and some of the UTSA football players in person. During the latter part of the event, people listened to presentations by Coach Coker and UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey regarding the present and future vision for UTSA football athletics.
Still a relatively new program, the UTSA football program had its very first season in 2011, with a record of four wins, eight losses for the inaugural season. In the most recent 2012 football season, the Roadrunners doubled their previous season’s wins by going eight wins, four losses. The Roadrunners were a part of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), but will transfer to the Conference USA for the upcoming 2013 season.
The main goal for the Roadrunners Road Trip is to create a greater fan base and to get the public aware and excited about UTSA football by supporting the team through ways such as attending the home games that are held in the Alamodome, according to Associate Athletic Director-External Affairs Brad Parrott.
Parrott explains that what makes UTSA very unique in Texas collegiate football is that it is the only NCAA Division I program in all of South Texas. Last year’s Road Trip focused on the areas of Corpus Christi, the Valley, and Laredo. This year it kicked-off in Falls City and will focus on the Houston and Austin areas, as well as parts of San Antonio itself.
According to Parrott, Falls City was an ideal place to promote UTSA football to all of Karnes County and the surrounding areas.
“We have taken a marketing strategy,” said Parrott. “Our reason for being in Falls City is right in line with our South Texas strategy. It is to reach out to what we feel is a strong potential market and fan base with all of the population that has been drawn to the area by the Eagle Ford Shale exploration.
“With the Eagle Ford Shale and the work that is going on there, the population has exploded; it’s primarily male and they have time and money. In South Texas that equates to a tremendous potential football fan base.”
Coach Larry Coker, 64, is an Oklahoma native and has vast experience and success at the highest levels of NCAA football. Coker has coached in the universities of Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Miami. In his first year as head coach of the University of Miami in 2001, Coker coached the Hurricanes to the NCAA national championship, as well as three Big East Conference titles (2001-2003). Coker has been honored with numerous awards for his achievements as a coach.
Coker expresses his enthusiasm for the direction UTSA football is taking, and also for the challenges and competition the still new team will boldly face.
“We’re a new program. We’ve only had two seasons and we’re getting ready to start our third season and we’ll be in Conference USA,” said Coker. “For us, going to Conference USA is going to help us a lot. Our schedule is going to help us because next year we play Arizona, we play Oklahoma State in the Alamodome, as well as Houston and Rice in the Alamodome. It’s a great schedule. I think it’s going to attract a lot of local flavor. We want to reach out to South Texas and get them involved in our team. We want to get our brand out and let people know that we want involvement.”
UTSA quarterback Eric Soza and his teammates signed autographs and interacted with the locals at the event. A 2009 graduate of A.C. Jones High School in Beeville, Soza relates his familiarity with Falls City, and how he understands and appreciates the small-town Texas pride for the game of football.
“I can relate to the small-town.” said Soza. “There’s nothing like those Friday night lights. Those were some of the best times of my life. Your teammates end up being your brothers for life.
“To be able to come here to Falls City and be able to see the encouragement from people who support us is a great thing. As players we appreciate it. As football players we take pride in and want to improve everything we do. We want to be able to put a good name out for UTSA football. These guys that are here with me are a prime example of what UTSA football is all about.”
Soza states that the hard work and preparation for the next football season has already begun and will continue.
“We’re working hard. We’re in the off season right now; we’re back to work,” he said. “As a program, we are on the rise.”