UTA Unfolded: Why doesn't UTA have a football team?

A scan of a page published in The Shorthorn on Nov. 19, 1985. The football program was dropped about a week later.

This story was reported as part of our UTA Unfolded initiative, which we launched last spring. Our reader led initiative focuses on answering and unfolding any questions you may have about campus.

Visual communications junior Hector Ruiz recalled that UTA used to have a football team and said he thinks UTA should look into reinstating it.

Almost every other major Texan university, such as Texas Tech and Texas A&M, has a football team that contributes largely to their campus culture and school pride.

Ruiz submitted this question to UTA Unfolded: What happened to UTA’s football team, and will they ever have another one? UTA Unfolded investigated.

Athletics director Jim Baker said in a statement to The Shorthorn that UTA cut its football team in November 1985.

“President Wendell Nedderman announced UTA was eliminating its football program because of budget deficits, caused in part by low attendance and lack of revenue,” he said. “Those same concerns persist today.”

Nedderman announced at a news conference in 1985 that the 66-year-old program was dropped because of a nearly $1-million athletic deficit, according to a Dallas Morning News article from the time.

UTA’s $2-million athletic budget included a $915,000 deficit from football because of poor attendance and lack of revenue, according to the article. These were issues that the NCAA Division I-AA school had struggled with for 15 years leading up to the decision. Of the Southland Conference, UTA had the highest annual enrollment at 23,000 students but the lowest average game attendance of 5,600.

Architecture alumnus Fred Ortiz began his freshman year at UTA in 1985 as a tight end and long snapper on the football team. He remembers getting called into the locker room to hear the disappointing announcement from his coach that UTA would no longer be able to fund the team.

“You think that you’re gonna be able to carry out your dreams at the next level, and then all of a sudden it comes to a stop,” he said.

After that, Ortiz focused more of his time on pursuing his architecture degree, joined a fraternity and attended more basketball games. He said not having football “deadened” the experience to an extent, but he moved on and found his passion in other things.

“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “And football wasn’t meant to be.”

Still, Ortiz said he wishes he could come back to campus and root for his home team on college football nights.

Auroya Wallace, international business junior and UTA Ambassador, said football contributes a large amount to school pride, especially during Homecoming, but its absence means everyone has to try a bit harder to create that environment on campus.

UTA offers much more than most people realize, she said. The university hosts various events throughout the year and their lasting sports teams — like basketball — have incentives like free food at many of the games.

Attending these events and interacting with the men’s and women’s basketball teams can help increase school spirit, Wallace said. However, it has to be a team effort from everyone on campus, including students and faculty.

Many question the need for school pride on a campus that’s commonly labeled as a “commuter school,” but Wallace said it’s essential to the “full college experience.”

“You don’t want to go somewhere where you’re not excited about going,” she said. “It’s like having ownership of something. If you really love something, you want to show it off.”

When students come to campus just to attend class and go home, and professors are more focused on their research than anything else, it’s going to show, Wallace said. And football won’t fix that.

@CecilLenzen

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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