Football and University Priorities

At Northeastern, a private university in Boston, the college football model wasn’t working very well.  Expenses averaged $3.5 million, and attendance was just 1,600 fans per game from a student body of over 20,000.  After a two year review of the athletic department, the decision was made to drop the sport.  Shira Springer describes the fallout in two articles in today’s Boston Globe.  One focuses on the institution at large, the other on the players, many of whom transferred. 

The negative fallout appears to be modest.  Those with ties to the program are understandably upset with the institution’s change in priorities.  But as Springer makes clear in her article, neighboring Boston University did much the same thing in 1997, reallocating funds to other sports programs.    

After dropping football, BU poured $285 million into athletic facilities over 12 years, building a new sports and entertainment complex, a new boathouse, a track and tennis facility and a fitness and recreation center. Alumni giving earmarked for intercollegiate sports has gone up, not down. And student interest has soared, with intramural sports participation up more than 55 percent.

Those facts suggest that reallocating funds from football to other sports worked well for BU.  Moreover, football itself can be played without the trappings of the major college football scene — in particular the professionalization and associated costs in the coaching ranks.  At BU, students recently formed the Boston Terriers Football Club.  The Terriers won their first game against a club team from Eastern Connecticut, and they play the University of Maine Football Club today.  If interest in football remains at Northeastern, forming a club team to play the Terriers and similar teams would seem like a reasonable option.

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Author: Skip Sauer

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College Football, NCAA

2 thoughts on “Football and University Priorities”

  1. Dropping football works well for lots of schools…former powerhouses have had their day and are much better off supporting sports that students..and not a few nostalgic about…

    There are going to be many surprises in college sports in the next 5 years. Cal just dropped baseball and men’s rugby. Title IX..a welfare program for third rate women athletes….will drain more traditional programs and have very unexpected consequences…contributions to schools will drop and it won’t be picked up by the school geeks or women ex-athletes. Lots of luck.

  2. College Football is a very popular sport. Whether it is always worth the money expended by colleges and universities will vary and depend on facts specific to each school. Club Football by contrast tends to be a very low cost activity. At the University of Vermont, which has been playing Club Football for 4 years now, the team receives about $12,000 a year from the Student Government Association. The rest of the team’s budget comes from club member dues and from donations from alumni and non-alumni donors such as myself. Because the football club is officially recognized by the University the team is also able to use the practice fields on campus and UVM permits its colors, mascots and symbols to be used without service mark infringement problems. UVM and the University of Maine Club team are part of the the National Club Football Association (NCFA) and play in the Yankee Collegiate Football Conference, which is a subdivision of the very successful New England Football League. The NEFL provides infrastructure support to the club teams in the form of insurance, rules and referees. In addition to playing other clubs, club teams also plays JV teams of NCAA colleges. I have attended home games at UVM. Close to 2,000 fans show up, more than at Northeastern games. Given the popularity of college football it should be an easy decision for the Club Sports Councils at Universities and College to give some modest support and, more importantly, official recognition to football clubs. However, at BU they refused to do so even though the University has given recognition now to 34 other club sports (including coed badmiton). In my opinion, the costs of official recognition to club football are very low and returns to a University in the form of student, alumni and donor satisfaction are very high. NCFA football could become a refreshing and beneficial part of the college life experience if college admistrators drop their ridiculous prejudice and give the kids and their supporters a chance.

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