Nation-high 37 seniors, Coker lead UTSA into 4th season in program history

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ It was referred to as the F-word. A joke all along, but some around the athletic offices of the University of Texas at San Antonio couldn’t muster the courage to utter the word that had been a dream in the works for nine years: “Football.”In a movement spearheaded by UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey and president Ricardo Romo, the football program that was nothing more than a concept five years ago is now rising to national prominence. “They were committed to creating the program here and starting football right,” head coach Larry Coker said, “and I thought it had a chance. “There’s no guarantees, but I thought it had a chance.”Coker, a former national champion head coach at Miami, is at the helm of the team with 37 seniors, the most in the country. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMany of them bought into a dream pitched to them five years ago when there wasn’t a football field to play on. They played well enough to advance the program into Conference USA and turn a projected last-place finish in 2013 into a 6-2 second-place one.That was just the opening act for the seniors’ grand finale. Coker and his veteran team are about to complete a four-year odyssey that started with a single football helmet and, they hope, concludes with more than 80 of them raised in the air celebrating a conference championship.Before Hickey was hired in 2000, she was asked in her interview with Romo if UTSA should have a football team. She rejected the idea. At that time the athletics program had 14 teams and a budget of only $1.2 million. She said adding a football program to that equation would have been outlandish. Not to mention the political, fiscal and social hurdles that would have to be cleared in order for the idea to gain any traction. So she waited.It was only a year later she said that the university experienced an explosion of growth with Romo announcing that UTSA was going to become a tier-one research institution to help fuel an enrollment growth from 16,000 to 32,000.“It became very obvious that (UTSA) had an identity problem,” Hickey said. “The kids wanted campus life.”The best selling T-shirt in the student center was one that read: “UTSA Football, Still Undefeated.” Of course, there was no football team at the time, but the cries for change were becoming louder. It was quite literally a culture shock for the kids who were raised on “Friday Night Lights,” only to come to a school in the heart of Texas and the seventh-largest city in the country and not see a football team.Hickey knew at the very least, Title IX regulations would have to be met before anything. She helped in the formation of the women’s golf and soccer teams, and the athletic department implemented a $20 student fee.Then Hurricane Katrina not only put the city of New Orleans out of commission, but it left an NFL team without a home.The Alamodome was built in 1993 with the intention of luring an NFL team to San Antonio. It was vacant when the storm struck in 2005, so the New Orleans Saints played there in San Antonio.The Saints’ short stay prompted significant business people in the area to rally around the idea of bringing a professional or college football team to San Antonio, Hickey said. The Alamodome being without a permanent resident, things started become all too apparent to Hickey and the UTSA staff, she said.“We always joked,” Hickey said, “that one hurricane blew in the Miami Hurricane, Larry Coker.”In 2006 Coker was ousted at Miami and took an analyst job at ESPN. He heard about the position at UTSA as the school began to publicize the job opening in 2008. He immediately acted upon his first instinct – dialing up good friend and Tulsa offensive line coach Denver Johnson to suggest he apply for the job.Johnson inquired about the position, and returned a phone call. That call went to Coker, and Johnson told his friend that in fact he was the one who should be applying.“I believe all of this was meant to happen,” Hickey said. ‘There’s been too many things that happened when they happened, and it wasn’t a coincidence.“What are the chances of a Larry Coker calling and telling us he was interested in the job?”Coker went through a series of interviews and ended up part of a narrowed-down field of three candidates. There was Northwest Missouri State coach Mel Tjeerdsma, Tulsa defensive coordinator Paul Randolph and Coker.“There was a chance everything could have fallen through,” Coker said, “but the chances of success were greater than the chance of failure.”Coker’s hiring was made official on March 6, 2009, and he’s been in go-mode since day one.Coker and his three newly hired assistant coaches immediately hit the recruiting trail. They sought out to recruit the best athletes regardless of what positions they played.“We realized we weren’t going to put Texas out of business with recruiting and competing against all those other schools,” Coker said. “But we said, ‘Hey, let’s just sell what we have, sell our dream, and if kids buy in then hey, we’ve got a chance.’”Nate Leonard was just a junior in high school when Coker dropped by one of his spring football practices. At the time Leonard was a fringe-Division I prospect, unsure if he could get an offer.When he heard about Coker and UTSA, it wasn’t something he was about to let pass up. He was left with an invitation to UTSA’s first-ever senior tryout camp in the Alamodome.“After I met and talked to Coach Coker for the first time at the camp,” Leonard said, “I knew he wanted to get to know more than just me. He wanted to know the people around me.“I knew if he cared that much about my family before he really knew me, how much would he care when he actually knows me and we are family?”Leonard turned his invitation to a 400-person high school senior tryout camp into the only scholarship offer he would receive — much like almost every other player who was recruited in the inaugural class of 18.The team practiced at a San Antonio Northside Independent School District field for a year. There were no facilities at UTSA.Leonard described the period of just practices for a season and holding those on a high school field as playing on “borrowed land.”The jerseys and equipment were also borrowed. The University of Texas and University of Texas-El Paso combined to send over 200 pieces of equipment for the Roadrunners to use.“We were just a rag-tag group of guys,” Leonard said. “What I love to tell people is that we were a group of guys who nobody wanted.“No one.”The players were expected to keep up with the fast pace of information being thrown at them by the coaching staff. Leonard said they were treated like salty veterans and thrown into the furnace. The canvas was blank. There was nothing to build off for Coker and Leonard — only room to create.And for a group of athletes who were playing for the football team that was likely their only shot at Division I football, they created an opportunity.“They told us that us original 18 were forged by fire,” Leonard said. “We were thrown right into the fire and forged.“We prove that every Saturday when we play.”Coker gave Leonard a recruiting pitch built on hopes and dreams, and bedazzled by the national championship ring on his finger.Now, that pitch is reinforced with top-notch facilities and a respectable conference to play in. The national championship ring still makes an occasional appearance, too.“I think he wears it around once in a while to give us an awakening and inspire us a little bit,” senior quarterback Tucker Carter said. “Plus it’s hard to miss that thing when he’s walking around.”The “rag-tag” group of seniors has plenty of reasons to play inspired. In what will be their final hurrah, this is the most complete team UTSA has fielded with five recruiting classes worth of talent. A diehard fan base that set an NCAA record for the largest single-season attendance for a start-up program — 56,743 — backs these players as much as the coaches that recruited them. The Roadrunners are ranked the 51st-best football program out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools on Football Outsider’s F/+ rankings. They’re outperforming storied programs like West Virginia and California, both of which have been around much longer than four years.The motto this year is straight to the point, and might be considered a stretch for a program of any age: rings or bust.“Our dream from the beginning of when we got here was to win,” Leonard said. “That hasn’t changed and will not change. What it means to us this year is to win the conference and a bowl game.” Comments Published on September 11, 2014 at 12:08 am Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossmanlast_img read more

Four Sumner County schools included in Governor’s Award recognizing top performing schools

first_imgHIGH SCHOOLSB & B Jr/Sr High School, USD 115 Nemaha CentralBlue Valley High School, USD 229 Blue ValleyBlue Valley Southwest High School, USD 229 Blue ValleyCentralia High School, USD 380 VermillionConway Springs High School, USD 365 Conway SpringsGarden Plain High School, USD 267 RenwickKapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School, WichitaLakemary Center Paola, PaolaLakeside High School at Downs, USD 272 WacondaMcPherson High School, USD 418 McPhersonMill Valley High School, USD 232 De SotoPawnee Heights High School, USD 496 Pawnee HeightsPiper High School, USD 203 Piper-Kansas CitySt. Thomas Aquinas High School, Kansas CityStockton High School, USD 271 StocktonWakefield High School, USD 379 Clay CenterWallace County High School, USD 241 Wallace CountyWheatland High School, USD 292 Wheatland. by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Four Sumner County schools joined 42 Kansas elementary schools, 10 middle/junior high schools and 18 high schools recently recognized as part of the seventh annual Governor’s Achievement Awards, honoring top performing schools in the state.  The school must have been among the top 5 percent of schools in both reading and mathematics on the state assessments at its respective level and met one additional measure.  For elementary schools and middle/junior high schools that measure is attendance and high schools the measure is graduation rate.Those receiving the award from Sumner County include: •Argonia Elementary School, USD 359 Argonia;•St. Joseph Elementary School, Conway Springs;•Wellington Christian Academy, Wellington;•Conway Springs High School, USD 365 Conway Springs.“The Governor’s Achievement Award is a significant recognition for Kansas schools,” said Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker. “The accomplishment recognizes a school’s high expectations and the ability of the school staff to assist students in achieving to those expectations.”The full list of schools receiving this award are as follows:ELEMENTARY SCHOOLSApollo Elementary School, USD 265 GoddardArgonia Elementary School, USD 359 ArgoniaBlue Ridge Elementary School, USD 473 ChapmanBlue River Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleyBostic Traditional Magnet, USD 259 WichitaBrookridge Day School, Overland ParkCorinth Elementary School, USD 512 Shawnee MissionEdgerton Elementary School, USD 231 Gardner EdgertonFrankfort Elementary School, USD 380 VermillionGood Shepherd School, Kansas CityHaviland Elementary School, USD 474 HavilandHoly Family School, Dodge CityJay Shideler Elementary School, USD 437 Auburn-WashburnLakeside Elementary at Downs, WacondaLakewood Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleyMacArthur Elementary School, USD 480 LiberalMadison Elementary School, USD 231 Gardner-EdgertonMarais Des Cygnes Valley Elementary, USD 456 Marais Des CygnesMarquette Elementary School, USD 400 Smoky ValleyMission Trail Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleyMont Ida Elementary School, USD 365 GarnettMorse Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleyMound Valley Elementary School, USD 506 Labette CountyNike Elementary School, USD 231 Gardner EdgertonNorth Fairview Elementary School, USD 345 SeamanOatville Elementary School, USD 261 HaysvilleOlsburg Elementary School, USD 384 Blue ValleyPrairie Creek Elementary School, USD 230 Spring HillSheridan Elementary School, USD 475 Geary CountySt. Gregory Elementary School, Kansas CitySt. Joseph Catholic Elementary School, Mt. HopeSt. Joseph Elementary School, Conway SpringsSt. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, ParsonsSt. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, KingmanStilwell Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleySunflower Elementary School, USD 231 Gardner-EdgertonSunset Ridge Elementary School, USD 229 Blue ValleyTrinity Lutheran Elementary School, WinfieldWellington Christian Academy, WellingtonWestwood View Elementary School, Shawnee MissionWheatland Elementary School, AndoverWoodrow Wilson Elementary School, Manhattan-Ogden MIDDLE SCHOOLSAndover Central Middle School, USD 385 AndoverChisholm Trail Middle School, USD 233 OlatheDwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, USD 265 GoddardIndian Hills Middle School, USD 512 Shawnee MissionLakeside Junior High School, USD 272 WacondaLexington Trails Middle School, USD 232 De SotoMarion Middle School, USD 408 Marion-FlorencePrairie Heights Middle School, USD 417 Morris CountyPrairie Trail Middle School, USD 233 OlatheWheatridge Middle School, USD 231 Gardner-Edgerton Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comments (32) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. +2 Vote up Vote down Hhmmmm · 341 weeks ago I notice how there wasn’t any of the Wellington public schools on that list… Report Reply 8 replies · active 340 weeks ago +5 Vote up Vote down Hhmmmm · 341 weeks ago Seems like USD 353 needs to take some notes from USD 229… What are they doing in order to get that awarded to 7 elementary schools?.? Report Reply 5 replies · active 340 weeks ago +30 Vote up Vote down too tired to fight · 341 weeks ago When was the last time any media outlet in Wellington or Sumner County printed the names of honor students? Now ask how many times the media outlets report on sports on a weekly bases. Yes, I realize that sports occur every week and honor rolls only occurs every 9 weeks. Shouldn’t that make those announcement’s of the honor roll more unique? I did a very limited inquiry on the honor roll in the high school. No special announcement. No special assembly. However they have assemblies all the time for sports. So what is more important to the school district? Sports or schools? Times are a changing. If you want people to come to Wellington. Then we need to improve school scores. Not worry about the next game. Report Reply 3 replies · active 341 weeks ago +6 Vote up Vote down anonymous · 341 weeks ago WHS Grad: Good post. Your comment “valuing education, understanding student responsibility” and responsible parenting… you nailed it right on the head. Period-facto. Mediocrity is its own reward. Report Reply 0 replies · active 341 weeks ago +4 Vote up Vote down Ted Logan · 341 weeks ago Close demographical inspection will reveal a few trends. You republicans will love the solution. Report Reply 0 replies · active 341 weeks ago +9 Vote up Vote down Argonia Proud · 341 weeks ago I’m proud to be from Argonia!! Way to Go to all the staff and students!! Report Reply 0 replies · active 341 weeks ago +2 Vote up Vote down shawn dj · 341 weeks ago USD 229 median household income $105, 000, median home value $310, 000. USD 353 median income $44, 300 and median home value $77, 000. Report Reply 1 reply · active 340 weeks ago +1 Vote up Vote down man ole man · 341 weeks ago USD 229 is the wealthiest school district in Kansas. There librarians make more than most teachers do else ware. Report Reply 1 reply · active 341 weeks ago +16 Vote up Vote down College Grad · 341 weeks ago I have two children in USD 353. Both are required to do their homework and good grades are an expectation. As a result, they both score very well on state assessment tests. So is it the school system that fails the kids who do not score well or is it the parents (through lack of scholastic help, low expectations, genetics, or a combination of these factors)? The school’s curriculum is sufficient for my kids to score at the highest levels on state tests. Maybe you are the problem if your child does not perform well. Report Reply 1 reply · active 341 weeks ago +7 Vote up Vote down guest · 341 weeks ago @College Grad you are exactly right. The school may give the kids the tools, it is the parents and the students job to do the rest. I think hmmmmmm said it all in their statement….. school’s problem not mine. Report Reply 0 replies · active 341 weeks ago 12Next » Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new commentslast_img read more