Texas Border Business
EDINBURG, Texas – The University of Texas System Board of Regents has approved the expansion of spirit programs and authorized the creation of marching bands and football and women’s swimming and diving programs for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
The approval came Thursday, and includes an increase of the Intercollegiate Athletics Fee from $15 per credit hour to $26.25 per credit hour, as approved by the Fall 2021 student referendum. Funds generated by the fee increase allow for the expansion and addition of the following programs on UTRGV campuses:
- Spirit programs on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses.
- A Division I women’s swimming and diving program.
- A Division I FCS football program.
- Marching bands on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses.
The university held a press conference on Friday morning to update the campus community and public about the next steps for these new programs.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the addition of these programs is part of a bigger goal to expand and enhance the university’s campus life.
“Like I told the Board of Regents, our students deserve a traditional campus life experience, and this is an important step in the right direction,” Bailey said. “What’s exceptional about these specific campus life initiatives is that they represent academics, student life, and athletics. These areas are coming together to provide a better university experience for our students and our entire campus community.”
The increase in the intercollegiate athletics fee will be for new incoming students, starting Fall 2022 and beyond, and graduating students who return for another degree. Current students who remain within the UTRGV established Guaranteed Tuition and Fees program will not have to paythe fee increase. The increase will be reflected on students’ billing statements starting with registration for Academic Year 2023-2024.
More than 5,000 UTRGV students voted in November 2021 in favor of the proposal to support programs aided by an increase in the intercollegiate athletics fee. Voter turnout was the largest to date for any UTRGV student vote.
EXPANDING UTRGV ATHLETICS
With the addition of football and women’s swimming and diving programs, UTRGV’s goal is to increase opportunities for student-athletes, while also providing programming to enhance campus life.
“This is another milestone moment in a process that will soon transform UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley,” UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said. “We have already experienced incredible support for and interest in sport expansion, and we are looking forward to ‘Rallying the Valley’ around our new programs as we launch women’s swimming & diving and football.”
UTRGV Athletics’ 16 programs will be enhanced by the newly added sports and boost the number of student-athletes by about 130. Incorporation of the new programs also will bring the construction of a 48,000-square-foot Vaqueros Performance Center, which will include a weight room, academic learning center and sports medicine facility that will be shared by several athletics programs including football.
ARE YOU READY FOR UTRGV FOOTBALL?
The level of excitement and support for a UTRGV football team, both on campus and across the Rio Grande Valley, is high, and is evident by the funding raised locally for the program.
Established by UTRGV Athletics, the Football Founders Society – a group of loyal donors helping the football program hit the ground running – already has raised $1.5 million.
Along with the UTRGV Foundation’s $1 million allocation to supplement the expansion of spirit programs and the establishment of two marching bands, women’s swimming and diving, and football, UTRGV already has generated $2.5 million in support of sport expansion.
The fiscal year timeline for the building of the UTRGV football program includes:
- Fiscal Year 2023 – The hiring of a head football coach and two coordinators in preparation for the program’s first competitive season in FY 2026.
- FY 2024 – The remaining assistant coaches and support staff will be hired.
- FY 2024 – Signing of the first recruiting class.
- FY 2025 – The football program conducts a practice year.
- FY 2025 & FY 2026 – The expected football roster will be named to include 60 and 90 student-athletes, respectively.
- FY 2025 – First football game to be played.
Beginning with the program’s first year of competition, UTRGV will be recognized as a full member of Division I FCS, eligible for NCAA postseason, and play a full Western Athletic Conference schedule.
DIVE IN FOR SUCCESS
UTRGV Athletics plans to hire a head coach for women’s swimming and diving in summer 2023 with the first competition scheduled for fall 2024. The expected roster is approximately 35 student-athletes. In partnership with the City of Pharr, UTRGV’s swimming and diving student-athletes will practice and compete in the City of Pharr Natatorium, a newly constructed, state-of-the-art facility that opened in February 2022.
On Feb. 22-25, UTRGV Athletics is co-hosting the 2023 Western Athletic Conference Swimming & Diving Championships with the City of Pharr at the natatorium. This is a crucial first step for the sport expansion, as UTRGV will get the opportunity to showcase the natatorium and university on a national stage, as well as introduce the Rio Grande Valley to Division I swimming and diving. The meet will be broadcast on ESPN+.
THE SPIRIT OF UTRGV
The addition of marching bands and expansion of spirit programs – cheer, dance and mascot teams – will create more than 250 new opportunities for student involvement. School spirit and pride will be enhanced on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses with performances by the marching band and spirit program.
“We are looking forward to the excitement and the connections the spirit programs and marching band will build and foster among our students, university community and throughout the Rio Grande Valley,” Dr. Maggie Hinojosa, senior vice president for Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs, said. “Creating a robust and high-quality student life experience for our Vaqueros is at the heart of UTRGV. These new initiatives will be key in enhancing the campus experience and boosting school spirit and pride for our students.”
Isela ‘Sel’ Gomez, a UTRGV alumna, was hired recently as head coach for the Spirit Program. She will lead the UTRGV cheer, dance and mascot teams, whose primary focus is to increase Vaquero spirit on campus and in the community, and to enhance and create traditions for Vaquero fans and alumni.
Also hired was Rudy Mata, a Midwestern State University graduate, who will serve as the new program coordinator for Spirit and Traditions. He will support Gomez with administrative responsibilities for the program and will help manage requests for team appearances and performances. He also will work with Student Activities to plan campus events that incorporate the spirit program.
In addition to collaborating with UTRGV Athletics, the marching band will perform as a whole or in parts, at events throughout the Valley.
The marching band will be unique as there will bands in Brownsville and Edinburg that will come together for rehearsals, and performances at football games and competitions. The UTRGV Division of Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs is developing a competitive scholarship and/or stipend program to ensure UTRGV is successful in recruiting the Rio Grande Valley’s best musicians.
Full implementation of the spirit program expansion is expected in FY 2025 and the first year of marching band participation will begin in FY 2026.
Also approved by the UT System Board of Regents on Thursday was the purchase of land, located at 501 W. Kuhn Street, near the northeast corner of W. Kuhn Street and N. 6th Avenue in Edinburg. The land will be used for the expansion of campus housing.
To learn more and stay up to date with the new and expanding programs, visit www.utrgv.edu/rallythevalley.