Bush sees similarities and differences between UTSA and UTRGV

Photo courtesy UTRGV Athletics

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Travis Bush was a young co-offensive coordinator quickly rising through the coaching ranks at Texas State in 2009, he coached alongside Tom Herman. Bush spent six seasons with the Bobcats, who were competing in the FCS ranks when an opportunity arose at upstart UTSA.

UTSA hired Larry Coker to build the Roadrunners football program from the ground up in March 2009. Coker brought instant credibility to UTSA, having won a national championship at Miami, and contacted Bush about becoming the sole offensive coordinator at UTSA.

“I remember telling my wife before I took the UTSA job that starting a program from scratch could benefit us down the road,” Bush said. “Looking back, it did benefit us, and learning from him about the different phases of being a head coach has been beneficial.”

Bush was hired in January 2010, and UTSA’s then-athletic director Lynn Hickey decided in late January the Roadrunners would begin competing as an FBS independent until they could find a conference.

Fast forward to 2023: Bush is the head coach for a UTRGV program that will begin its practice season in 2024.

“One thing similar to UTSA is the timeline,” Bush said. “We have a runway to get started, get the staff hired, have a practice season, then start playing for real in 2025.”

That’s about where any similarity between the start of UTSA’s program and the Vaqueros 13 years later comes to an end.

“When we started at UTSA, we didn’t have facilities. We had the dome but not the facilities. We had to practice at high school facilities the first few years and had a makeshift gym and locker room,” Bush said. “During the practice season, we only had half of the coaching staff at UTSA. I was coaching quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends. Looking back at some of those things that happened at UTSA has helped us realize what we want to do better than we did then.”

The ‘us’ Bush refers to UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque. The two first met when Bush recruited Conque’s brother, Zach, in 2011 and 2012.

Chasse witnessed firsthand how a lack of facilities hurt the UTSA program and has worked to prevent that from happening at UTRGV.

UTRGV is beginning to build a 45,000-square-foot facility, the Vaqueros Performance Center, which will house the football program. The cost of the new facility is expected to be in the $45-50 million range, which is $15-20 million more than the initially projected $30 million price tag.

“The differences are having the facilities and hiring a full staff before we get kids on campus,” Bush said. “Everyone wants to talk about stadiums, and they play at a stadium for about five games a year. The facility is where they spend their daily life, so we wanted to place the bulk of the funds into the facility to make their daily lives the best we can.”

The Vaqueros have added three members to its coaching staff during this past offseason, and Bush said he will hire the rest of his staff after this season. 

“I have some guys in mind that I’d like to add to the staff, but they’re working this season,” Bush said. “Hopefully, we can get some of those guys on campus after their season ends and have the bulk of the staff in place to help with recruiting. The last few coaches will be added after signing day in February.”

Anticipation is building around the Rio Grande Valley, and the excitement will reach a crescendo when UTRGV holds its first home opener in 2025. The Vaqueros had over 2,100 fans place a deposit on season tickets in the first seven months. Bush, a Portland native, said the valley still has untapped potential.

“The biggest key is getting people to the RGV. People don’t realize how big it is, how nice it is, and how much stuff we have,” Bush said. “They think a lot of what they see on Fox News sometimes is true, but we have the tenth-safest city in America. There remain many opportunities economically for businesses, and adding football to the Rio Grande Valley will shine another positive light on the area.”

As Bush continues to build the UTRGV program, he knows he can call on his mentor Larry Coker whenever he needs advice.

“He’s retired now and tends to himself, so I try not to bother him,” Bush said. “But he always has great advice.”

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