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IRVING, July 9, 2013--The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today that 12 new college football teams will take the field for the first time this season, including a record number of nine schools entering the NCAA in 2013.
“No other sport contributes more to the vibrancy of a college campus than football, and the trend of adding programs continues full force,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “University and college presidents clearly see the value of having programs on their campuses, and we applaud them for understanding the role football can play in the educational experience of all their students.”
Universities and colleges are adding football at all levels, and administrators have developed sound plans, ensuring the new programs address the unique financial, academic and long-term objectives of their respective schools. The 56 institutions listed below, who have implemented firm plans during the past few years, coupled together the more than 20 schools with exploratory committees, create a clear and undeniable trend that presidents and trustees nationwide see the value of a football program as part of their overall academic mission. Since 1978 when the NCAA changed its method for tracking attendance figures, the number of schools playing NCAA football has steadily increased by 160 schools, or an average increase of 4.7 schools per year.
The rationale for adding football varies at each institution, and all of the decision makers who helped develop a plan for launching a program explain that an in-depth study played a critical role in finding the right level of play and the proper financial balance. Small colleges may cite increasing enrollment and addressing gender imbalances while larger universities might highlight the role of football in raising the institution’s profile and its ability to attract research grants. All mention creating a more vibrant on-campus community and connecting with alumni.
“With more than one million high school students playing football and less than 70,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll.”
The schools have added programs at all levels of play in every region of the country, experiencing successes that run the gamut. Their achievements include notching impressive attendance figures; attracting increased enrollment; garnering national publicity; expanding their donor bases; earning playoff berths; and receiving invitations to join conferences at the next level.
Well-thought-out plans have allowed schools to move swiftly in fielding teams. Houston Baptist, which announced the launch of its football program in 2011, will play a seven-game developmental schedule this fall, including its inaugural game against Sam Houston State on August 31. Houston Baptist sees football as an integral part of a plan to raise its visibility and increase its enrollment from approximately 3,000 students today to 8,000 to 10,000 students in the next decade.
“We’re trying to grow this school and make it more of a regional school with greater numbers, and we have seen studies that show football will help us grow our overall enrollment,” said Houston Baptist Athletics Director Steve Moniaci. “We are also a young institution right around 50 years-old, and we really need to have more opportunities to engage our alumni base, and football is uniquely suited to do that. It’s one of the few things you can count on to bring your alumni back to campus.”
Moniaci said his administration concluded that the roughly $10 million in start-up costs for the Football Championship Subdivision program would have a greater impact than competing uses for the funds, adding that the tuition for the non-scholarship athletes on the team would offset the $1 million in annual operating costs for the entire team.
“The only surprise has been the number of youngsters who have shown up here willing to pay their own way for the chance to play football,” said Moniaci. “We will begin fall drills this year with roughly 40 student-athletes on some sort of football aid, but then we’ll have at least another 40 who are paying their own way to be on the squad this fall.”
Finding a conference presents an important step in the process for schools launching programs, and the list of factors vetted by conferences when seeking new members covers a wide range of topics, including geography, academic profile, level of competition, media market potential, the scope of other sponsored sports and financial stability.
“All the factors are very important,” said Tom Burnett, the commissioner of the Southland Conference, which recently announced that Houston Baptist will become a full member in 2014 after a developmental season this fall. “At the end of the day, it is what is in the best interest of the student-athlete experience.”
Burnett explained that adding football becomes an educational process for each school based on its individual needs and resources. A school has to make an assessment that it is missing football and the benefits the sport brings, and then it must look at the steps and resources it will take to add the sport.
“It’s got to be the right fit,” said Burnett. “It first has to work on a campus and in the community. If it does not work there, it’s of no value to us in the conference. They have to figure out what is best for them. As we got into the membership expansion mode, Houston Baptist made it clear to us that they had an interest in sponsoring football. One thing led to another, and we made some decisions about membership based on their interests about being a member of the Southland and about starting a football program that would benefit us all.”
East Tennessee State University (ETSU) represents another program moving quickly to add football. After dropping the sport in 2003, ETSU administrators realized the absence had created a void, and they announced this spring that they would bring the sport back at the FCS level, retaining College Football Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer as a consultant. They quickly found a home in the Southern Conference, and Carl Torbush, who previously headed FBS programs at Louisiana Tech and North Carolina, recently accepted the head coaching job.
“Adding football at ETSU is a clear effort to create a better environment on campus,” said Richard Sander, the athletics director at ETSU. “Football on campus really completes the college experience for students, and a lot of people felt that was lacking once football was dropped. We see football as the part of the brand of the university to reach out to the community and create opportunities for a lot of folks. There are just a tremendous number of reasons to add football.”
Sander anticipates the addition of football will directly add 400 students to ETSU’s enrollment because of the other sports that will be added for Title IX compliance, the marching band, trainers and managers, and he estimates an increase of approximately $10 million in tuition revenue from the additional students. Sander also cited the importance of football to the other sports sponsored by the school, specifically to ETSU’s invitation to join the Southern Conference.
“Without football, we would have not gotten into the Southern Conference,” said Sander. “So, for all the other sports, football is a huge benefit because it allows them to compete in a conference where we are going to play with traditional rivals with easy geographical travel, creating more excitement for our fans and connections to the traditional rivalries.”
The Southern Conference, which has built a reputation as one of the top conferences at the Football Championship Subdivision, also recently announced that it was adding Mercer University in addition to ETSU, and football played a key role in the decision making process.
“In the case of both parties, we would probably not have had them as high on our list as potential expansion candidates without the commitment to football,” said John Iamarino, commissioner of the Southern Conference. “Football was very much near the top of the priority list in the presidents, chancellors and athletics directors’ eyes as to the institutions that they would consider, and it was critical to the decision on who to add.”
The Southern Conference does have one institution that does not play football, North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Iamarino said that UNCG Chancellor Linda Brady remained a staunch advocate for focusing on schools with football because she recognized the value of football in solidifying the long-term status of the Southern Conference.
“You look at schools differently that don’t play the sport,” said Iamarino. “They are just considered, not necessarily better or worse, but they are just considered in a different light. In the case of ETSU, without football, it would have been a much harder struggle to get them in the league, and I am not sure we could have done it.”
"It’s ironic given all of the concern about the concussion issue with football that you don’t see schools dropping, but you do see schools adding because of what it gives you," said Iamarino. "It elevates the school to a different level. It gives you an activity that becomes the central rallying point for the entire campus for the alumni, the boosters, to a far greater extent than any other sport, and that is where the attraction is."
12 Programs Launching in 2013
Alderson Broaddus University (Philippi, W.Va.): NCAA Division II, Independent – President Richard A. Creehan, Athletics Director and Head Coach Dennis Creehan.
Berry College (Mount Berry, Ga.): NCAA Division III, Southern Athletic Association – President Stephen R. Briggs, Athletics Director TBA, Head Coach Tony Kunczewski.
Florida Tech (Melbourne, Fla.): NCAA Division II, Gulf South Conference – President Anthony J. Catanese, Athletics Director Bill Jurgens, Jr., Head Coach Steve R. Englehart II.
Hendrix College (Conway, Ark.): NCAA Division III, Southern Athletic Association – Interim President Ellis Arnold, Athletics Director Amy Weaver, Head Coach Justin Buchanan.
Houston Baptist University (Houston, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, (Developmental season in 2013, joining the Southland Conference in 2014) – President Robert B. Sloan, Jr., Athletics Director Steve Moniaci, Head Coach Vic Shealy.
Mercer University (Macon, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Pioneer Football League (joining the Southern Conference in 2014) – President William D. Underwood, Athletics Director Jim Cole, Head Coach Bobby Lamb.
Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Okla.): NAIA, Central States Football League – President David W. Whitlock, Athletics Director Robert Davenport, Head Coach Chris Jensen.
Reinhardt University (Waleska, Ga.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference – President J. Thomas Isherwood, Athletics Director Bill Popp, Head Coach Danny Cronic.
Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas): NCAA Division III, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference - President Edward B. Burger, Athletics Director Glada Munt, Coach Joe Austin.
Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Pioneer Football League – President Wendy B. Libby, Athletics Director Jeff Altier, Head Coach Roger Hughes.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Independent (starting in 2013 and subsequently joining the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA in 2015) – Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Athletics Director Judy Rose, Head Coach Brad Lambert.
Warner University (Lake Wales, Fla.): NAIA, Independent (2013) – President Greg Hall, Athletics, Director Kevin Jones, Head Coach Jeff Schaum.
11 Programs Launching in 2014- 2016
(Listed chronologically and then alphabetically.)
College of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho): NAIA, Applying to the Frontier Conference (2014) – President Marv Henberg, Athletics Director Marty Holly, Head Coach Mike Moroski.
George Fox University (Newberg, Ore.): NCAA Division III, Northwest Conference (2014) – President Robin Baker, Athletics Director Craig Taylor; Head Coach Chris Casey.
Limestone College (Gaffney, S.C.): NCAA Division II, Independent (2014) - President Walt Griffin, Athletics Director Mike Cerino and Head Coach Bobby James.
Missouri Baptist University (Saint Louis, Mo.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association (2014) - President R. Alton Lacey, Athletics Director Tom Smith and Head Coach Jason Burianek.
Paine College (Augusta, Ga.): NCAA Division II, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (2014) - President George C. Bradley, Athletics Director Tim Duncan and Head Coach Gregory Ruffin.
Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.): NAIA, Conference TBA (2014) – President Kent Ingle, Athletic Director Drew Watson and Head Coach Keith Barefield.
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southern Conference (2015, with a full conference schedule in 2016) -- President Brian Noland, Athletics Director Richard Sander, Head Coach Carl Torbush.
Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Conference TBA (2015) – President Daniel S. Papp, Athletics Director Vaughn Williams, Head Coach Brain Bohannon.
Lyon College (Batesville, Ark.): NAIA, Conference TBA (2015) – President Donald Weatherman, Athletics Director Kevin Jenkins, Head Coach TBA.
Finlandia University (Hancock, Mich.): NCAA Division III, Conference TBA (Date TBA) – President Philip Johnson, Athletics Director Chris Salani, Head Coach TBA.
University of New Orleans (New Orleans, La.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference (Date TBA) – President Peter J. Fos, Athletics Director Derek Morel, Head Coach TBA.
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