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Date Posted: Fri, May 20 2005, 13:35:13
Author: 91
Subject: UTPA to talk to SLC

http://www.themonitor.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=7319&Section=Sports

UTPA to make sales pitch to Southland
May 20,2005
Wade Baker
The Monitor

EDINBURG — University of Texas-Pan American Director of Athletics Scott Street knows this is the chance the Broncs have been waiting for since the school was ousted from the Sun Belt Conference in July 1998.

And finally, seven long years later, UTPA has somebody who will listen to its sales pitch.

The Broncs, along with four other collegiate institutions, will attempt to persuade the Southland Conference that they’re the program primed for SLC affiliation when Street, president Blandina Cárdenas, vice president of business affairs James Langabeer and faculty athletic representative Tony de la Peña meet Saturday in Houston with the league’s board of directors.

UTPA rival Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Centenary, Central Arkansas and Tarleton State are the other four institutions.

"The way I’m looking at it, we have a chance to present to them what UTPA is all about," Street said. "We want to take this chance and educate them on why we should be a member of the Southland Conference. We have a short video, we have a PowerPoint presentation, and I have written material in book format that I’ll give them."

The Southland Conference in January said it was "exploring the possibility of expansion" when Louisiana-Monroe announced that it was moving to the Sun Belt Conference in all sports beginning with the 2006-07 season. With the loss of Louisiana-Monroe, that will drop the Southland Conference to 10 members.

Southland Conference expansion will be discussed officially at a meeting in Galveston during the first week of June when the 10 presidents of the member institutions will be present, league commissioner Tom Burnett said. The Southland Conference hasn’t decided on how many institutions it would like to expand to, if it does go into expansion mode, Burnett added.

"Right now, we’re just feeling it out," Burnett said. "We’re going to give the schools a chance to meet with our board of directors, and we won’t know anything further until that June meeting. After that meeting, we’ll have a better idea of what we’re going to do. And if we do try to expand, it doesn’t mean it has to be one of the institutions we’re talking to Saturday."

Centenary is currently a member of the Mid-Continent Conference and was invited to Saturday’s meeting by the Southland Conference. With Centenary’s travel problems — having to board planes for practically every road trip in league play — the Southland Conference would be the perfect fit. Tarleton State and Central Arkansas are currently members of NCAA Division II but are exploring the possibility of moving to Division I, and of course, the Southland Conference would be the ideal league.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who moved to Division I in 2002, would also be a natural fit for the Southland, along with UTPA, due to its geographic location with the other 10 member programs. The Southland Conference, once Louisiana-Monroe departs, will have six Texas members and four from Louisiana.

"I think this is our best shot," Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Director of Athletics Dan Viola said. "I’ve been here since the beginning, and I really think this could be our chance. I think the Southland has softened on their stance about wanting football schools only, and that’s always been our disadvantage in the past. But this time I think we have a shot."

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