SAN ANTONIO – Saturday was a big day for the 3,800 new University of Texas at San Antonio graduates. As students marched in for the beginning of the second graduation ceremony of the day, their football team played the last moments of the program's first-ever bowl game. It was a game the new alumni say will get their alma mater some new visibility.
"I'm so damn proud to be a Roadrunner," Gabriel Wechternejad said after the commencement.
Though the Roadrunners lost 23-20 to New Mexico, it's clear they've handily won their fans' allegiance.
"When the team first started years ago to now, I mean they're doing so, so, so good," said a newly graduated Melissa Barrera. "And they were so close. It was great. It was such an experience. It was awesome."
Fans tweeted out their support after the game, too, using #BirdsUp. Their upbeat messages showed a fan base proud of their team and its historic appearance.
"(I) couldn't be prouder of the UTSA football team. Hell of a first bowl game," tweeted user @pablo_ramosss. "Don't worry boys, next year will be yalls."
University President Ricardo Romo believes just appearing on the national stage in a bowl makes UTSA more attractive, and not just in recruiting athletes.
"As we recruit students to come to our campus, as we recruit faculty to come to our campus, they want to know that we're a mature campus with lots of things going on," Romo said.
Romo said the exposure gives the degrees students just earned a "plus."
"They have a degree they're going to hang on a wall, and the more recognition people have with the University of Texas San Antonio, the better," Romo said. "People are going to say 'I know San Antonio.'"
New alumni certainly agreed with Romo.
"I'm known now," new alumnus Andrew Collins said. "Like UTSA is known. When I came here, it was a smaller school. Just me being here within the 5 years, it's grown so much."
"UTSA is trying to become a Tier 1 university, and we're this close to it," Wechternejad said. "And the recognition of going to a bowl game just boosts our credibility. And we're going to be something very special very soon. We're on the path."