University to change conference, start new soccer program
The University of Texas- Pan American announced Wednesday that the University will join the Western Athletic Conference, beginning in the 2013-14 school year, and will soon get a soccer program.
The University’s bid to join the WAC was approved by the UT System Board of Regents in a special meeting Tuesday. UTPA is not the only university leaving the Great West Conference for WAC, joining Utah Valley University and Chicago State University.
“In the great west there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” UTPA Athletic Director Chris King said. “A lot of times people don’t care, but at the end of the tunnel, you get into the last two weeks of the season and you’re going for the first place and a potential chance to win a conference championship- a lot more people are going to pay attention.”
UVU, who accepted it’s invitation to the WAC Oct. 9 and will become a full member July 1, 2013, announced they would add a men’s soccer program in 2014. It seems the change of conferences has sparked UTPA to do the same.
“I think it’s phenomenal for the Valley, for South Texas. It’s such a popular sport,” King said about the future Men’s and Women’s soccer program. “We have a void in the fall. We have volleyball, but we don’t have a football team. So soccer, it’s a big deal.”
Besides the addition of a new sport at UTPA, by joining the WAC the Broncs will have automatic qualification to NCAA postseason. This will be the first time UTPA will have AQ since getting kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference 15 years ago.
“I look at where we’ve been and where we’re going and I look at the future all the time,” King said. “In 2014 we have an opportunity now to play for March Madness. All these tournament packets out there will have the UTPA Broncs name in the tournament brackets.”
King hopes this will help not only increase school spirit, but also help increase the University’s recruitment.
“I know this semester alone, our coaches were recruiting as if we were going into the WAC conference,” King explained. “The WAC has a very strong brand and I think that you’re going to see recruiting go through the roof in the next year.”
Because the press conference was held during the winter break, King announced the Department will hold a pep rally at the beginning of the spring semester to celebrate, most likely during the first week of classes.
More information regarding the Men’s and Women’s soccer programs will be available Feb. 6 at a press conference, yet to be announced.