The state of Texas, affectionately known as football country, has north of 28 million residents, and is home to 5 different Local Swimming Committees (LSCs) of USA Swimming – matched only by California. The 28,000+ year-round athlete members in the state of Texas is again only surpassed by California.
And still, the state is home to only 8 NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving programs, and just 5 men’s programs. That ranks 8th and 9th, respectively, among all states in the country. The state ranks even worse (16th and 15th, respectively) when all 3 of the NCAA’s divisions are taken into account.
But that number could be getting a boost in the near future, thanks this time to an assist from football, according to a feasibility study released earlier this week by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
The study, conducted by College Sports Solutions, was a first step in the school’s exploration of adding an NCAA Division I football program (and, doing so at the FBS, or 1A, level).
While the report overwhelmingly supported the idea of adding a football program, it noted possible Title IX pitfalls. The school’s student body for the year studied in the report was 56.6% female, but their athlete opportunities were only 48.6% female – out of line with Title IX’s “substantially proportionate” opportunities requirement. Adding an FBS footballteam would push that to 64% male and 36% female, the study projects, meaning that the school would need to cut men’s sports or adds women’s sports.
Specifically, the study suggests the addition of softball, beach volleyball, and swimming and diving to offset the football addition.
According to a report by the Brownsville Herald on the topic, the study, commissioned in 2016, is dated August 2017. A delay on moving forward with the football program has been caused by the university’s focus on the UTRGV School of Medicine, which had its accredidation placed on probation in December of 2016 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Two other schools in the University of Texas system, UT Permian Basin and the University of Texas at Austin, already have women’s swimming programs. UTRGV was founded in 2013 when the system merged UT Brownsville and UT Pan American, and officially began operation in 2015. The school has an indoor 8-lane, 25-yard pool on campus that ranges from 3 feet to 12 feet in depth.
According to the Rio Grande Guardian, the mayor of neighboring Pharr, Texas, Ambrosio Hernandez, announced that the school will buuild a new aquatic center in the city, which will be a collaboration with the PSJA School District and will also be used for sports medicine and rehabilitative surgery. The school is also planning to develop a medical clinic campus in Pharr.