Rio Grande Valley residents love sports; that’s evident whenever local high school teams clash. Mexican soccer teams frequently come to play exhibitions in the Valley, and we’ve even seen efforts to bring Major League Baseball spring training or even Dallas Cowboys summer camp to the area.
So far those have been just dreams. But one dream that that seems within reach could expand organized sports while giving local youth opportunities to improve and succeed.
Three strong community colleges operate in the Valley, and at least one is looking to rebuild its sports program. Perhaps that could inspire the other institutions to follow suit.
During its last years as a single entity, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College had a growing sports program, fielding volleyball teams that won two National Association of Collegiate Athletics national championships and a soccer team that had ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation.
All that went away when UTB divorced TSC and merged with UT-Pan American to form UTRGV; the new university’s athletic program is based exclusively in Edinburg, leaving western Valley residents with vacant venues and fading memories.
TSC had fielded several sports teams before joining with UTB. Now it has little more than a club soccer team and intramural events.
Worse, Brownsville students who were still building their skills in high school have little chance of improving further and perhaps attaining a life-changing college scholarship.
But now TSC officials are looking at the possibility of reinvesting in competitive sports, beginning with the soccer club, and one day having a complete program that competes against other community colleges, perhaps in the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association or the National Junior College Athletic Association.
It’s a worthwhile dream, one that with a little coordination could expand across the entire Valley.
Building a sports program that qualifies for entrance into a national league will take major investments of time, money and effort. A great boost toward that end would be a level of competition that enables teams to solidify and grow.
TSC officials should consider sharing their dreams with officials at South Texas College and Texas State Technical College, and propose a Valley league that could help each college develop its sports programs.
The programs would create a friendly rivalry among the colleges and give Valley residents more games to enjoy. And they would give young residents more opportunities to hone their skills as they further their academic careers.
Who knows? A young Valley athlete could use a local college team as a springboard to greater things. It’s not too far-fetched; Aaron Rogers, Cam Newton and Warren Moon are just some of the many current and future sports legends who started their careers at community colleges.
While each institution’s primary focus will always be education, it’s been proven that successful athletic programs pay off greatly in student loyalty and alumni and community support.
Success is a dream fortified with planning and execution. Building a new level of competitive sports in the Valley might be possible not only at TSC, but at all Valley community colleges.