Football Programs Across Nation Set To Debut
Sept. 1, 2009
Courtesy of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame
DALLAS - The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today that five new college football teams are set to take the field for the first time this season with a dozen more programs set to launch between 2010 and 2013.
"With more than one million high school football participants and only 66,000 playing college football, it makes sense that colleges would want to give high school players more options for playing at the next level," said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. "We are proud to highlight the college presidents and their trustees who have recognized the educational benefit of our sport. Their foresight will provide more student-athletes the opportunity to continue to learn to be leaders through football."
The 17 colleges set launch football programs will boost the overall ranks of four-year institutions carrying the sport to 742 schools. The current divisional breakdown includes: 120 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision programs; 126 Division I Football Championship Subdivision programs; 149 Division II programs; 238 Division III programs; and 92 NAIA programs.
Nearly 30 schools have added football during the last decade, and it appears to be a trend that will continue into the future as more and more schools capitalize on the sports ability to attract student-athletes, energize campus life, increase a school's media visibility, and boost alumni support. In addition to football's ability to bring in male applicants, the sport also plays a role in attracting students interested in band, cheerleading, sports journalism, sports business, exercise science and other related areas of study.
"It's exciting to see the launch of these programs because they are giving players the choice of playing at different levels in regions of the country where those options did not previously exist," NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "Football's popularity has never been greater, and the fact that so many schools are embracing it is a testament that more and more college administrators see the value of the sport to a student's overall educational experience."
Programs Launching in 2009
Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Colonial Athletic Association - President John R. Broderick, Athletics Director Jim Jarrett Head Coach Bobby Wilder.
University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, Texas): NCAA Division II, Independent and joining the Lone Star Conference in 2010 - President Louis Agnese, Jr., Athletics Director Mark Papich, Head Coach Mike Santiago
University of New Haven (West Haven, Conn.): NCAA Division II, Northeast-10 Conference - President Steven H. Kaplan, Athletics Director Deborah Chin, Head Coach Peter Rossomando
Anna Maria College (Paxton, Mass.): NCAA Division III, Eastern Collegiate Football Conference - President Jack Calareso, Athletics Director David Shea, Head Coach Marc Klaiman
Castleton State College (Castleton, Vt.): NCAA Division III, Eastern Collegiate Football Conference - President David Wolk, Athletics Director Deanna Tyson, Head Coach Rich Alercio.
Programs Launching in 2010- 2013
University of South Alabama (Mobile, Ala.): NCAA Division I - Football Championship Subdivision, Sun Belt Conference (2010 with a full transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision anticipated in 2013): President Gordon Moulton, Athletics Director Joel Erdmann, Head Coach Joey Jones
Georgia State University (Atlanta, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Colonial Athletic Association (2010) - President Mark P. Becker, Athletics Director Cheryl L. Levick, Head Coach Bill Curry
Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference (2010) - President James Simmons, Athletics Director Billy Tubbs, Head Coach Ray Woodard
University of Texas at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference (2011 as an independent before joining the conference in 2012) - President Ricardo Romo, Athletics Director Lynn Hickey, Head Coach Larry Coker.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Conference TBD (2013) - Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Athletics Director Judy Rose, Head Coach TBA
LeMoyne-Owen College (Memphis, Tenn.): NCAA Division II, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (2011) - President Johnnie B. Watson, Athletics Director William Anderson, Head Coach TBA
Pacific University (Forest Grove, Ore.): NCAA Division III, Northwest Conference (2010): President Lesley M. Hallick, Athletics Director Ken Schumann, Head Coach Keith Buckley
Presentation College (Aberdeen, S.D.): NCAA Division III, Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (2011) - President Lorraine Hale, Athletics Director Rick Kline, Head Coach TBA
Stevenson University (Owings Mills, Md.): NCAA Division III, Capital Athletic Conference (Developmental in 2010, NCAA Division III in 2011) - President Kevin J. Manning, Athletics Director Brett Adams, Head Coach TBA
Hendrix College (Conway, Ark.) NCAA Division III, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (Date TBA) - President J. Timothy Cloyd, Athletics Director Danny Powell, Head Coach TBA
Lindsey Wilson College (Columbia, Ky.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference (2010) - President William T. Luckey Jr., Athletics Director Willis Pooler, Head Coach Chris Oliver
Notre Dame College (South Euclid, Ohio): NAIA, American Mideast Conference (club level in 2009, varsity team in 2010 and recently approved for NCAA Division II status) - President Andrew P. Roth, Athletics Director Susan Hlavacek, Head Coach Adam Howard
The University of South Alabama will field a football scholarship team for the first time since the school opened in 1963, playing a junior varsity schedule in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, the Jaguars will play a Football Championship Subdivision schedule, followed by a Sun Belt schedule in 2012 with postseason eligibility in 2013.
"We know from experience that there are many academically talented students whom we recruit each year who choose other universities because we don't offer these programs," said South Alabama president Gordon Moulton. "For many universities across the nation, NCAA-sanctioned football and a marching band program serve as the centerpiece of student life and campus tradition. They serve as a catalyst for a wide range of student life activities."
More than 2,500 South Alabama students signed a petition in 2007, favoring a $300 increase in the annual student activity fee, which led to a vote by the trustees to launch the team and add a 200-member marching band.
"Having homecoming, parents' weekend and other activities that our university will have on football weekends will be great," said athletics director Joe Gottfried, who helped with the ground work for football and recently retired in August after more than 28 years at the post. "In the past, we tried to do these types of activities around other sports, and it was not the same."
Georgia State, founded in 1913 and situated in downtown Atlanta with 28,000 students, conducted comprehensive research on the benefits of a football team before announcing the launch of a program in April 2008. The school quickly selected Bill Curry to coach the team. Curry, a former All-Pro NFL player who went on to coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Kentucky, has had little trouble recruiting players with the promise of building something great.
"I cannot wait to get onto the field. Football will be a huge success at Georgia State University. That's a promise," said Curry during a press conference when he accepted the job. "There would be no Georgia State football program starting today if the student body did not respond in such a positive way and, frankly, in such an unusual way by supporting the increase in the student athletic fee. That's inspirational to everybody."
The Panthers will play in the Colonial Athletic Association with the Georgia Dome as its base for home games. The team is practicing this fall with a squad of 70 players, including 30 scholarship student- athletes. The school hopes that a football program will help change its reputation as a commuter-based institution to a university with a more vibrant campus life.
In Texas, football captures the limelight like few other activities, yet few options have existed in south Texas to play college football. San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the country, lacks a professional or college team aside from the NCAA Division III program at Trinity University. College administrators recognized the void, and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Incarnate Word are in different stages of launching programs.
"We're adding this program to have an impact on, not only the city of San Antonio, but the south part of Texas and eventually the entire state and southwestern part of the United States," said UTSA Athletics Director Lynn Hickey at a press conference announcing the launch. "We're in a city where we really need to enhance the idea of going to college and finishing high school. If we can put a product in the Alamodome that kids in this community can come and watch and be a part of, that may give them the idea that it's cool to go to college."
UTSA has hired former University of Miami (Fla.) head coach Larry Coker, who led the Hurricanes to the 2001 BCS National Championship. The Roadrunners will compete in the Southland Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision after a year as an independent in 2010. UTSA will play its home games at the Alamodome with plans eventually to play in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Filling a different void in south Texas, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is playing at the NCAA Division II level. The Cardinals played their first game in history this past weekend, stunning Mexico's Monterrey Tech, 42-39. The game attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 6,235 fans to the newly built Benson Stadium, named for team benefactor and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. A private Catholic university with an enrollment of 6,703 students, UIW offers an alternative to the larger public school program being launched across town at UTSA.
"This is the first game in the 128-year history of the university, and the level of interest and enthusiasm has been off the charts," said Vincent Rodriguez, assistant to the president for communications at UIW. "Our team allows local players to play at the scholarship level and stay near their hometown. Launching a football program has other ancillary effects. For example, we've added a band, which will help our music department grow."
Lamar University, located 80 miles east of Houston with 11,000 students, recently announced its plans to resume a football program. Lamar will play in the Southland Conference in 2011 after an exhibition season in 2010. The sport's return came after 79 percent of the student body voted to raise fees by approximately $105 a year per student and approval from the Texas State University System Board of Regents.
"Lamar's football coaches are building a competitive program from the ground up. We're also building up a marching band and spirit team, all in preparation for gridiron excitement in the new Provost Umphrey Stadium," said Lamar University President James Simmons. "All across the campus, excitement is building for the return of football."
Lamar has started a $29 million project to renovate its stadium and the surrounding areas, and the school will join UTSA in the Southland Conference, one of the most competitive FCS Conferences in the nation.
"From a conference perspective, football sponsorship solidifies membership, and sets the tone and future direction of a league," wrote Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett in an email. "The Southland Conference only had six institutions sponsoring football in 2003, which was not only creating problems in scheduling, but could have placed the conference's future viability at risk. The recent additions of Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas have helped stabilize our membership, and the additions of Lamar and UTSA will only cement our future course as a top-level Division I FCS conference."
Old Dominion University will play its first home game in more than 60 years against Chowan University (N.C.) Sept. 5. The anticipation on campus is palpable with more than 1,200 students lining up to get the best seats. Students pitched dozens of tents outside the ticket office and endured 20 hours in the rain during an all-night vigil to get the best seats. Head coach Bobby Wilder and his staff delivered boxes of donuts to those in line at 7:30 a.m.
"It was inspiring," said Wilder in a story on the school's web site. "The first thing I did was come back and tell our players about it this morning. I drove past there last night and they were already having a good time and the place was packed. Then when I drove past this morning at 6 a.m. and it looked the same to me as it did last night. They were all out there having a great time."
"Football has most assuredly brought a new level of excitement to Old Dominion," wrote Old Dominion president John R. Broderick in an email. "At a time when we are becoming an increasingly residential campus, with new residence halls, a state- of-the-art student recreation center and a growing University Village development, the addition of football now just makes sense. It's something that our students and alumni, as well as faculty and staff members and area residents, have been looking forward to for years."
"Football coming to ODU has filled a void we need for a fall spectator sport which would bring together our alumni, students, friends, and fans in the Hampton Roads area like only that sport can do," said Old Dominion athletics director Jim Jarrett. "We are already sold out in season ticket sales, and the students have picked up all of their tickets. This is a tremendous situation for us."
Boise State will have some new company in the blue turf category, as the University of New Haven Chargers marks the return of its program on a state-of-the-art blue and yellow Sprinturf field at the newly named Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium.
"Everybody is so excited. The buzz around our campus is just fantastic. The students are excited, the faculty and staff, and the entire community too. And we had a major contribution from a donor for the new Sprinturf Field," said New Haven Athletics Director Deborah Chin. "We seat about 3,500, and there is no doubt that we'll sell out our first two games... an nice outgrowth of the football program is that we have our own little marching band with 40 people."
Without a conference to call home, the school had dropped football in 2003 because playing NCAA Division II Football as an independent had become cost prohibitive with travel to the four corners of the country to acquire opponents. The school found a new home in the Northeast 10 Conference with its opponents in much closer proximity.
"The worst professional experience I ever endured in my life was telling those young men that we were going to drop football in 2003," said Chin. "They were crying and saying what I am going to do, and that is something that I never wanted to endure again... We have always had football. Homecoming was always centered around football. When you have it and then you don't have it... that was devastating to our student body and alumni. Homecoming around soccer is not the same when you have had football."
The Chargers open the 2009 season September 5 at Lincoln University (Pa.).
"The return of Charger football is a great source of pride among our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community fans," wrote University of New Haven president Steve Kaplan in an email. "It will provide the University of New Haven with yet another opportunity to enhance its national reputation by showcasing our outstanding student-athletes competing in one of the top Division II conferences in the country."
Anna Maria College, formerly an all women's Catholic College outside of Worcester, Mass., started varsity sports programs in the mid-1970s but never had football. With a current enrollment of 1,400 students, the school will field its first football team this fall, and the impending kickoff has generated tremendous buzz with hundreds of people standing to just watch the team practice. Anna Maria President Jack Calareso knows the benefits of football, having previously added teams at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, and Ohio Dominican College in Columbus, Ohio.
"I have done it before, and I believe it an important strategy for small schools like Anna Maria," said Calareso. "Adding athletics programs in general is important to enhance the experience for all students, and it's great for our alumni and our community... For a small college, this has been a topic that has garnered a lot of attention, and it certainly helped with enrollment, helping us to recruit both athletes and non- athletes alike."
Castleton State and Anna Maria, both competing in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, are scheduled to play each other during the first game of the season September 5. The paring produces the unique situation of having two brand new programs going head-to-head in their first game ever.
While Anna Maria faces a multitude of options for the attention of football fans in Eastern Massachusetts from the NFL's New England Patriots to the ACC's Boston College Eagles, Castleton State confronts much less competition, becoming just the third college in Vermont to field a football team. And while Anna Maria's practices may have attracted hundreds of spectators, Castleton State has produced thousands with 1,200 people turning out to watch an unadvertised green and white scrimmage. Additionally, the Castleton Spartans have sold out their 1,600 stadium capacity for their first two games, expecting a crowd of 4,000 to 5,000 spectators, including the governor, for the Sept. 5 Anna Maria game.
"They can have more fans. We just want to score more points," quipped Calareso.
Besides Alaska, Vermont was the only state without a football program at a public college, and the other two football-playing colleges, Norwich University and Middlebury College, either required an interest in the military or a steep financial commitment. The school administrators wanted to give young student-athletes an option to stay in state and playing football.
"Close investigation of seven competitive football programs with whom we would compete indicates that the sport would clearly provide revenue enhancements for the college," wrote Castleton State College President Dave Wolk in an email. "Aside from the enrollment and financial enhancements provided by football, competitor colleges all report the positive impact of football on campus life... There is a certain intangible campus spirit that football sometimes brings to a campus."
Also in the unique situation of having two brand new programs going head-to-head in their first game will be Lindsey Wilson College and Notre Dame College who will face each other on Sept. 4, 2010. Notre Dame, which first admitted men in 2001, will break new ground becoming the only scholarship football team in the metropolitan Cleveland, Ohio, area, while Lindsey Wilson will be competing again in the sport after a nearly 75 year absence.
"It's been pretty dramatic," said Lindsey Wilson College President William T. Luckey, Jr. "We have had 66 kids enroll to play football and our new student enrollment went from 485 last year to 675 this year. Some are players, some band members, cheerleaders, some are girlfriends. We are also starting wrestling which is part of the number too. It's not just the players who you bring, but there is a residual boost that you don't plan for... but it's all been very, very positive... You can't attribute causality, but also can't ignore that it's happened."
Fordham University also recently announced that it will begin awarding football scholarships beginning in the fall of 2010 for the first time since 1954.
"Momentous may be understating it, in fact. This is a sea change for Fordham athletics: these scholarships will allow more students to participate in Fordham football, and will make the team much more competitive both in Patriot League and non-league games," said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University.
Currently a member of the Patriot League in football, the move will help Fordham compete at the highest level in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and aid the Rams in enhancing their non-conference schedule. Fordham will offer 60 scholarships, allowing the Rams to schedule NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools, including already scheduled games with Connecticut, Navy and Army.