Austin’s first big-league sports team — Major League Soccer’s Austin FC — kicks off its premier season in 2021. But, once again, the potential for another major-league sports team, an NFL franchise, is being kicked around.
In a new piece titled “Which Cities Would Deserve the Newest NFL Expansion Team?”, SI.com, the online platform of Sports Illustrated, floats the long-alluded-to idea of bringing an NFL team to Austin, one of the largest U.S. cities without a major-league football franchise. Austin was among several cities mentioned by SI.com as prospective sites for NFL teams. Others were Montreal; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; Oklahoma City; and a few out-of-the-arena-of-possibility candidates, like Anchorage, Alaska.
In making his case for an NFL team in Austin, writer Albert Breer calls the “San Antonio/Austin metroplex” (metroplex?!) the “best unoccupied market” in the U.S. for NFL expansion. Though he acknowledges San Antonio and Austin aren’t viewed as a combined market, he emphasizes they "are just a few Buc-ee’s stops away from each other" while highlighting the growth happening in shared suburbs like New Braunfels and San Marcos.
“With that [population growth] has come a tech boom and economic explosion in the region, smack in the middle of the most football-crazy state in America,” Breer writes. “And while Austin brings the cash and growth, San Antonio and its prominent Spanish-speaking community can serve as a gateway for the league into Mexico.”
Breer notes that Austin fits the mold of a football-fanatical place (hello, Longhorns) with the “population, interest, and wealth to support a team.” In addition, he says, Austin offers the “boomtown business potential” of two U.S. cities that secured expansion teams in 1995 — Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida.
Of course, a key consideration for any NFL team is the money scored through TV rights. On its own, Breer writes, San Antonio ranks as a bigger TV market than four places with NFL franchises — Kansas City, Milwaukee (Green Bay), Cincinnati, and Las Vegas. Combine San Antonio’s TV market with Austin’s, and you eclipse the size of TV markets in the NFL cities of Miami and Denver, he notes. Considering Austin’s meteoric population growth, Breer surmises that the blended San Antonio and Austin TV market will only grow larger.
Breer’s suggested name for the team: the Austin Coyotes. That’s a nod to the 1999 football movie Varsity Blues, which was shot mostly in the Central Texas towns of Coupland, Elgin, and Georgetown. The film centers on a high school football team named the Coyotes in the fictional Texas town of West Canaan.
Breer recognizes the resistance that an Austin-San Antonio team likely would meet from the owners of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, both of which have big fan bases in Austin and San Antonio. And let’s not forget that a new stadium would need to be built; the price tag for a project like that easily could top $1 billion.
Now, we’ve heard talk before of NFL teams potentially landing in the Austin-San Antonio area — namely the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. The Raiders are moving to Vegas, the Saints are staying put, and Austin and San Antonio still lack an NFL team.
Over the years, a number of prognosticators have fielded Austin, San Antonio or Austin/San Antonio as possible players in an NFL expansion, but no formal, sustained efforts have been organized to make that happen. At this point, the NFL has not green-lighted expansion beyond the current lineup of 32 teams.
Back in 2015, a study from American City Business Journals awarded Austin a top score of 100 in terms of the capacity to support an NFL team, as well as an NBA, NHL, and Major League Soccer team. The capacity score for Major League Baseball was 56.
San Antonio didn’t fare quite as well in the 2015 study. It garnered a Major League Soccer score of 100, an NFL score of 96, an NHL score of 92, and a Major League Baseball score of 44. San Antonio already has an NBA team, the Spurs.