The University of Texas-San Antonio’s football program played its first game in 2011. Usually, it takes a while for a school to get a fan base but in football-mad Texas, the Roadrunners were an immediate success.
They had more than 57,000 people at the AlamoDome for their first game, an NCAA attendance record for a startup program. Now, 24th-ranked UTSA gets to play a bowl game in Frisco, Texas, and they’re expecting a whole lot of those fans to be there.
“The stadium is sold out. I heard it’s a majority Roadrunner fans so I think we need to just keep doing what we’ve done the whole season and get loud and get rowdy,” says safety Rashad Wisdom.
They will definitely have a home-field advantage against San Diego State on Tuesday night at the Frisco Bowl. But, the Aztecs really don’t care because they’re used to not even having a home field.
“This team, these guys in his program, haven’t played a home game in two years,” says SDSU head coach Brady Hoke, who’s team has been playing “home” games in Carson while their new stadium has been under construction in Mission Valley. “I really give them a lot of credit because of the leadership of the guys on this football team and how they’ve handled two seasons.”
Football players, probably more than any other athletes, thrive on atmosphere. If your fans are loud, you feed off them. If opposing fans are loud, you feed off wanting to silence them. The Aztecs have been playing without that for two years.
“It definitely was difficult the first year,” says linebacker Caden McDonald. “We had no fans in the stadium at all so there was some adjusting to do. But, after a while we called that place our home. We got into a routine every single week we’d go up there so that was what we called home and we got comfortable with that.”
And, perhaps, they were able to find a silver lining.
“Ultimately, as a team, we grew much, much, much stronger,” says running back Kaegun Williams. “We had to rely on ourselves and not really focus on the outside noise or not having fans or anything like that, more just playing the game that we play.”
So, the Roadrunners can bring as many people as they want to Toyota Stadium. It’s not going to impact San Diego State one bit.
Now, none of this is to say the Aztecs aren’t looking forward to Snapdragon Stadium opening next year.
“Being able to have a stadium 15 minutes from campus that we’re going to genuinely call our home, that’s going to be awesome for our fans and the culture of our team” says McDonald. “It’s really going to be a game-changer for our program. It’s going to be an awesome atmosphere and I genuinely cannot wait to play there.”