UTSA-Army a fitting game for Military City USA
Frank Wilson started his morning a little after 5 a.m. That’s not unusual for the UTSA football coach.
But Tuesday he broke his normal routine and ventured over to the intramural fields tucked away behind the baseball facility and the football practice fields on the UTSA campus.
The sun was nowhere to be seen yet, but banks of lights illuminated a large group of students going through physical training.
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The students weren’t decked out in UTSA’s orange and blue. About half wore white and blue. The rest were in black and gold.
Wilson decided to walk over and thank them — UTSA’s Air Force and Army ROTC — for their loyalty, hard work and service.
“I was letting those guys know how much we appreciate them and what they do from an officer training, readiness standpoint, that they not only come to school to earn a degree, but they position themselves for offensive training and future endeavors in leadership opportunity in our military,” Wilson said.
UTSA faces Army on Saturday at the Alamodome, and the game undoubtedly had him thinking about those rare students who beat him out to UTSA’s practice fields every day.
“With this game being so significant against Army, it was good to visit with our Army ROTC and our Air Force ROTC on an early morning thank-you for all that they do,” Wilson said. “For the liberty that they provide for us in protecting our country and putting their lives on the line.”
He is not wrong, and outside of bringing in Air Force, there is not a more fitting game for UTSA to host and designate as its annual Military Appreciation Game.
San Antonio is called Military City USA for a reason. It’s home to one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the United States — Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB and Randolph AFB.
“This year, we’ve engaged the military like it’s never been engaged before with UTSA athletics,” UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos said. “Obviously, playing Army this year, that hopefully will create more partnerships. That’s what we’ve really been charged with the last year and a half, and (we) have a really great staff who has just been out there.”
That charge is a big reason why UTSA and Army are contracted to play three more times, with games in 2020, 2022 and 2023, but those games have not been announced and are in flux because the Roadrunners are overbooked in two of those years.
According to the contracts, Army wouldn’t be back at the Alamodome until 2023.
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These things can change and probably will.
But Army should be back.
Much like Incarnate Word and Texas State, this is a game the city and UTSA need.
Despite never facing UTSA, this will be the Black Knights’ third trip to the Alamodome. The previous visits were losses to Notre Dame in 2006 and 2016.
But that is not quite the same.
“It’ll be great for the city for sure getting to see those guys who serve us and do so much for us to come down here and get to play in the best military town in the world,” UTSA defensive end Jarrod Carter-McLin said. “So it’ll be a good deal. I’m sure the crowd will be excited, and we like it.”
Still, it might be best if Wilson and the Roadrunners don’t get too appreciative.
Army is a 15½-point favorite over UTSA and is coming off a game where it went to double overtime against Michigan, which had been thought of as a national title contender.
Michigan needed a 43-yard field goal and a timely fumble to hold on for a 24-21 win.
It was also the second time in as many seasons that the Black Knights nearly knocked off a top-10 team. Last season, the Black Knights forced then-No. 5 Oklahoma to overtime before falling 28-21.
“They’re not overwhelming in size and stature. I say this respectfully. You don’t look at them, and there’s this first-round draft pick, a guy who is dynamic with talent. But they play relentlessly, they play well as a team, and they do what they do as well as anybody in the country,” Wilson said. “Where they don’t match up on paper, they do with effort and cohesiveness as a team.”
And UTSA might not even have that big of a home-field advantage.
But Wilson doesn’t mind that part.
“I know we have ROTC who will participate within our band structure,” he said. “We want all of those guys to come out and support not just our football team, but our city and our whole military mindset of what we stand for as a country, what we stand for as a city, what we stand for as a university, and so hopefully we can get them all out there.”