Speaking as someone who, as a student, hardly attended a college football game, I have been surprised at the number of parents who tell me, “My son wants to go to a Division 1 college.” I know students who have turned down excellent small colleges because they lack a football team and all the hoopla that football brings to a campus.
It has not been much a factor in my household with my two oldest kids, neither of whom are sports junkies but who will watch a football game now and then. (That may all change with my 11-year-old son, who loves all sports and knows all the players by name. I can see how he would love to attend a school with great sports programs.)
Since moving south, I have come to understand that many teens place a high value on attending colleges with sports teams. And I understand the use of teams, especially winning ones, to rally students and create a school identity.
Still, I think it is off putting to talk about launching teams, an apparently costly endeavor, at a time when the public colleges in this state are raising tuition and fees because of diminishing state support. The timing for this issue seems bad to me. What do you think?
But that is now the case, as this AJC story reports:
Daniel Kaufman’s ambition is not to use sports at Georgia Gwinnett College to spread the school’s name, nor to triumph in their victories. The president of the four-year-old institution has set his sights elsewhere.
It is “less producing spectacular varsity athletic teams than it is engaging our students in these kinds of activities, either as participants or spectators, and getting them connected with the college,” he said.
Among Kaufman’s colleagues around the state, motives differ, but the plan of action is similar. Several Georgia colleges and universities have either started or committed to starting intercollegiate athletics programs, some even taking the leap to add football.
Kennesaw State plans to start football in 2014. Reinhardt University and Berry College are both considering starting football programs, Reinhardt as early as 2013. Georgia Gwinnett College is proposing to start an athletic program in 2012 and the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta campus began fielding men’s and women’s cross country, golf and tennis teams this fall.
Other schools are adding sports to their programs, particularly lacrosse. They come on the heels of the most noteworthy recent arrival, Georgia State’s football team.
While Kaufman wryly acknowledged that “our timing is perfectly bad,” his and other schools’ sports-hungry initiatives are mirrored nationwide.
Since 2000, 28 NCAA schools have begun or resumed football, 14 in the past three years. The NCAA’s membership grew from 1,261 in 2000 to 1,291 in 2009.
The endeavors do not come cheaply. Just to begin play, Kennesaw State estimates it will need to come up with $10 million for football. Kaufman roughly calculated the initial budget for the school’s athletic department to be $1.5 million.
The two schools should expect questions from the University System of Georgia’s budget office if they submit student fees increases to fund the new teams. Once the budget office signs off, the fees request go before the State Board of Regents for approval.
“Obviously, anybody who’s adding a program that costs any money is going to come under real scrutiny,” regent Richard Tucker said. “Sometimes spending money on a program is really good in slower economic times if you’re using it as an investment to a bigger return. I’m not sure that athletic programs necessarily fall in that category.”
Kaufman said that Georgia Gwinnett’s teams would be paid for with student fees, so long as they were approved, private contributions, loans and money from the school’s foundation.