Amid a record-setting season in only his second year as coach of the nationally ranked University of Texas at San Antonio football team, Head Coach Jeff Traylor finds himself at a crossroads.
As one of only nine undefeated teams in college football, his 8-0 Roadrunners are, for the first time in the program’s 11-year history, in a national spotlight. Traylor himself has become one of two rumored top choices for the open coaching position at Texas Tech University, which fired its head coach, Matt Wells, on Monday.
Although he told reporters Wednesday he had not had contact with Texas Tech officials, Traylor may already be Tech’s unannounced choice for the job with an offer in his agents’ hands. They will surely counsel Traylor to take the leap and take the money.
Bigger is better in college football, but let’s hope for the sake of UTSA and for San Antonio that Traylor chooses destiny over the dollars and continues to lead a program that is integral to elevating the university at large.
This isn’t just about Traylor, although he is at the heart of the story, a Texas high school football legend from the small East Texas town of Gilmer who came to UTSA from an assistant coaching position at Arkansas. A strong recruiter with deep ties to the state’s top high school football coaches, Traylor led a rehabilitated Roadrunners team to a 7-5 record and a bowl appearance in his first year on the job, and this season has led the team to its first national ranking and an assured bowl appearance. An undefeated season and a conference title are not out of the question.
This also is about a team, and not just the players, who surely are unsettled by the news that Traylor could be departing so soon. The program’s success begins with UTSA President Taylor Eighmy and UTSA Athletic Director Lisa Campos, who raised the funds to build the $40.4 million Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence, or RACE, a state-of-the-art practice and training facility. They recruited Traylor back to his home state in 2019 while it was still under construction.
The RACE opened in August. More recently, Eighmy and Campos navigated their way through the dark netherworld of collegiate athletic conference politics to successfully elevate UTSA out of Conference USA and into the American Athletic Conference.
It’s a move that will bring more television revenue, greater athlete recruiting opportunities, more challenging opponents, and elevated recognition nationally for the university.
Eighmy and Campos are working intensely behind the scenes to convince Traylor to continue building a program that is gaining the attention of collegiate football watchers nationwide. They’ll need to dig deep to put a preemptive offer on the table, even if there is no matching Tech’s money. Traylor’s base salary is $830,000 but he has reportedly earned an additional $275,000 in bonuses related to the team’s performance.
I would not bet against Eighmy and Campos. They might be removed from the sights and sounds of the sidelines, the marching bands, and the cheer squads on game day at the Alamodome, but they are integral to the success of the Roadrunners.
The trio together stand on the cusp of building a program that can become a perennial contender able to take on other top-ranked teams. Think people aren’t noticing the team’s success? ESPN2 has the Roadrunners’ next game against the University of Texas-El Paso scheduled for a prime time kickoff of 9:15 p.m. CDT, on Saturday, Nov. 6.
If Traylor takes the Tech job, he’ll be one more football coach parlaying a winning season into a higher-paying job, moving from one college town to the next. Sooner or later, another program would come calling and the Traylors would pack up and leave Lubbock.
Still, it won’t be easy for Traylor to say no to Texas Tech. He will have to decide building the program at UTSA has a higher value than a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract and more perks than you can dream of. Texas Tech is the center of the universe in Hub City, backed by local energy billionaires willing to pay whatever it takes to win.
He can stay at UTSA and make history. This season, however it concludes, represents a turning point for Roadrunners football. Traylor and the student-athletes he has recruited from around the area and state are poised to accomplish something that seems bigger than the next job offer, the next big payday.
You don’t have to care about Roadrunners football and its history-making season to understand the importance of Traylor to the university and to San Antonio. It’s all about team, his team.