When Dr. Brian Wickstrom first arrived at the University of the Incarnate Word, he had a vision for what he wanted when it came to Athletics.
As UIW approaches its one year anniversary in Division I FCS championship competition, his vision is slowly becoming reality. Over the past year, he has made changes to not only the administrative side but he has gotten UIW back on the map in the sports arena.
Wickstrom came to UIW a year ago from the University of Louisiana, Monroe and he quickly hired several new coaches that fit the school’s mission statement. The school’s football team hired Eric Morris as head coach, who came from Texas Tech, where he spent five seasons as offensive coordinator.
“Hiring Coach Morris was a no-brainer,” Wickstrom said in a phone interview. “His commitment to winning and impact on student-athletes was one of the main reasons he got the job. But we wanted someone who understood and lived out UIW’s mission statement.”
Morris’ hire also saw his student-athletes raise their game not just on the field but in the classroom. Since Morris took over in December 2017, his team has seen their GPA increase from a 2.5 to a 3.2.
“Everyone is excited to come to practice and just work,” Cardinals Quarterback Sean Brophy said at the team’s annual media earlier this year. “You can see the difference from just a year ago. The attitude of the team is totally different.”
The changes just aren’t to the team but to Benson Stadium and other sporting facilities around the university. Wickstrom oversaw the completion of the Classic HD FieldTurf installation as Metropolitan Methodist Hospital worked with the school on the field.
In August, the school announced plans for Daniel Sullivan Field and Cardinals Field renovations. H-E-B has partnered with UIW for this project, making these two of the top-three commitments in program history.
“We made these changes to our facilities for our student-athletes,” Wickstrom said. Not only will it improve their level of play but the changes are also for the students and families to enjoy.”
Recently it was announced that San Antonio will host the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2025 and the Women’s Final Four in 2021. Wickstrom played a part in that as he reached out to Jenny Carnes of San Antonio Sports, asking her how UIW could be a host.
“The Final Four is not only good for the city of San Antonio but for the communities in the city,” Wickstrom told me. “To host these events with UTSA as the top two Division I schools in the city will benefit both schools for years to come.”
UIW head women’s basketball coach Christy Smith has seen the changes first hand. She was hired back in 2016 and says from an administrative point of view, it’s night and day as the culture change is felt throughout the department.
“Dr. Wickstrom had a vision and has said he wants UIW to be like Kansas State when it comes to athletics,” she said. “His passion for student success both in and out of the classroom is welcomed. As coaches, he has made us feel comfortable and when our student-athletes feel comfortable, it makes out jobs a little easier.”
UIW student-athletes have completed over 5,500 community service hours and 105 have graduated, with 27 graduating in the fall and 78 graduating in the spring, according to the university.
“While wins are nice, the main thing is making our student-athletes time here at UIW something to remember,” Smith said. “We want to make sure they enjoy their time here and see them leave the university as even better people.”
Other notable success for UIW Athletics over the past year has seen men’s tennis program clinched the Southland Conference title, their first in program history. UIW Baseball coach Patrick Hallmark helped the Cardinals to its first winning season in Division I, winning 29 games overall and 13 Southland Conference wins.
Cardinals punter Joe Zema earned six All-American honors and will be on the San Antonio Commanders’ roster, the city’s newest pro football team. UIW also added Iowa State to its football schedule, which will see the Cardinals play a Power Five school in December.
Despite the success reached in the first year, there is still room for UIW to grow. And as they grow, Wickstrom has big plans as his end goal.
“The main goal of becoming a nationally recognized, top Division I Catholic institution,” Wickstrom said. “With a positive culture and following our school’s mission statement of core values, I feel we can achieve that.”