Firing Line: Knight Called UTA About Hoops Job

Sources inside the Texas Tech athletic administration and Big 12 office in Dallas confirmed to me today that after basketball coach Pat Knight was fired this morning by Texas Tech, the son of coaching legend Bob Knight placed a phone call to UT-Arlington President James D. Spaniolo to inquire about the head basketball coaching position at the school.

Boise and UTA logo

(Similarly-marked Boise exiting WAC as UTA eyeing entrance? Handy!)

If only the job was vacant.

Current UTA head basketball coach Scott Cross, a former player and assistant coach at the school, has a contract to coach the men’s basketball team through 2013 at $115,000 per season. There is no imminent UTA plan in place to terminate Cross, who is 63-63 overall after recently coaching the team to a 13-16 season. But I’ve been told that could change depending on the availability of quality candidates.

A Texas Tech athletic dept. staffer told me today that Knight, knowing his tenure at the school this season was tenuous at best, had developed an interest in the UT-Arlington job as the season progressed. No word yet if that interest was reciprocated by the UTA President Spaniolo or Athletic Director Pete Carlon.

But why on earth would Knight, freshly fired at a Big 12 school, be interested in such a seemingly low-profile job?

Might have something to do with the fact that the The Mavericks will soon open a new $78M arena next season fueled in part by a $5 million contribution from an energy tycoon who has 22 natural gas wells on the UTA campus itself. In talking to multiple Metroplex media sources today, I’ve also been told there’s a distinct possibility UTA will join the WAC in basketball - and soon.

Though even more intriguing is the prospect of UT-Arlington reviving football, which according to DFW sources is once again gaining traction. I was told today by a prominent Fort Worth-based sports media member that UTA President Spaniolo and Athletic Director Carlon are currently in the “evaluation” stage of considering a football program that would compete in the WAC.

UT-Arlington fielded a Division I football program between 1964-85, shuttering the endeavor because of sagging attendance and a staggering budget shortfall.

In 2004 UT-Arlington students cleared the way for a tuition hike in order enable a sports program “expansion” which would possibly include bringing back football. But Spaniolo later concluded that the construction of a new arena should take priority.

As part of a press release to that effect, Spaniolo wrote the following on Jan. 25, 2005:

I am committed to taking a fresh and comprehensive look at football for UTA within five years.

Five years later, Spaniolo is said to be once again seriously considering fielding a Division I team at the 30-year-old, on-campus UTA Maverick Stadium facility, which seats 15,000 and still yesterday by various UTA sports teams and local high schools.

With enrollment spiking and new Division I football programs also popping up in San Marcos (Texas State) and San Antonio (UTSA), the time might be right for a UT-Arlington football revival.

Especially since the team occupying nearby JerryWorld may already be off life support.

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