Wilson, 42, was selected after a nationwide search to find a replacement for Larry Coker, the school’s first head coach who stepped down on Jan. 5.
Led by UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey, a selection committee reviewed candidate portfolios to narrow the pool down to three finalists. UTSA President Ricardo Romo then interviewed candidates on the short list before the decision was made.
This will be Wilson’s first head coaching position. In his six seasons at LSU, Wilson is noted among college football observers as one of the nation’s top recruiting coordinators.
“I can tell you in confidence that we’ve made an excellent choice in coach Frank Wilson,” Romo said during a Friday press conference at UTSA.
“I would deem this as a moment of impact, beginning this next phase of our program,” Hickey added. A New Orleans native, Wilson played college football before becoming a student assistant coach at Nicholls State. His first assistant coaching job started at Ole Miss in 2005, and followed that up with stints at Southern Miss and Tennessee before arriving at LSU.
Joined by his family, Wilson applauded UTSA officials for having the “vision” to start a football program “when people thought it couldn’t be done.”
“My family is eager and excited to be here, to call San Antonio our home and today is just the beginning of that time,” Wilson said. He explained he is enticed by the idea of heading up a UTSA football program that, now planning for its sixth season, still has firsts yet to be experienced: a conference title and a bowl bid, among them.
“When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t (have been) more excited about it,” he said.
Wilson praised Coker, a former national championship coach at Miami who steered Roadrunner football during its first five years to what some observers call a successful run, given the program’s fledgling status. UTSA football is 26-32 overall, but the 3-9 campaign that recently concluded in 2015 disappointed fans, especially when the `Runners finished with winning records in 2012 and 2013.
Wilson described UTSA football as a “sleeping giant.”
“Whether it was the inaugural win or the seven-win season, (the team has) shown flashes at times of the possibility of the things that could be done here,” Wilson added. “I like our chances. I like us.”
Romo saw in Wilson a passionate, energetic coach who is committed to his players, and always wanting to compete at the highest level.
“He is engaging, as you know, and he has that passion and knows how to channel the energy and the passion,” Romo said. “Therefore, he is an ideal person to harness this momentum to take us to new levels in football.”
Wilson said he is ready to start formally meeting with current players and coaches as early as this weekend. He offered no specific timeframe, but said he will evaluate the existing coaching staff. Wilson also has to dive quickly into his work, as recruiting is heating up. National signing day, Feb. 3, fast approaches. While with the Tigers, Wilson had five top 10 signing classes, including a No. 2 class in 2014 that boasted star running back Leonard Fournette. Rivals.com named Wilson national Recruiter of the Year in 2011.
According to various news reports, Wilson was popular among colleagues, players and fans at LSU.
“Frank has been a big part of what we’ve accomplished at LSU both on and off the field. He’s ready to be a head coach. He’s worked long and hard for this opportunity, ” said Tigers head coach Les Miles told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Making an immediate and lasting positive impression with current players and potential recruits is one of the key aspects of his own administrative style, Wilson said.
“So many times people think the recruiting process is about the words that you speak to a young man, to a committee, to a group of people but the reality is being a very good listener,” Wilson explained. “For the first 60 days here at UTSA I’m going to listen – listen, understand the culture, (and) understand the history that allows me to first of all recruit the players on this campus.”
Wilson did not break down specifically how UTSA football will look like under his tenure, but he expressed an appreciation for an offense that plays physical, creates running lanes, and is able to make big plays by going vertical with the throwing game.
Wilson beamed as the news conference came to an end. Years of hard work are finally paying off for him and his family, he said.
“It is the biggest moment of our life. We don’t take it for granted, and we’re looking forward to it,” he added. “Birds up.”
*Top Image: Frank Wilson talks to reporters during the press conference called to announce his new position as head coach of UTSA Football. Photo by Mark McClendon, courtesy of UTSA.