Why should UGA have all the fun? Other state colleges want their own football teams. Is that a worthwhile goal?

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.

20 comments Add your comment


October 15th, 2010
10:55 am

In my 15 years on faculty at UGA and 3 years at Michigan State University before that, I had numerous discussions with students echoing this sentiment. However, most of the big football powers also field exceptional research faculties, so although the objective may be misplaced, the result is students attend great academic schools. The problem is student who attend those great schools and perform miserably the first two years while they drink their way through a football-as-bacchanal party culture, minimally making it to the 3rd year when they get serious about taking their major electives. “Beer and Circus” (http://www.amazon.com/Beer-Circus-Big-Time-Undergraduate-Education/dp/0805038647) is an easy read on the reprioritization of big time sports over big time academics, and points out that the NCAA’s own research states that a small number of Division 1 schools actually make money on football – it is a bit of a shell game with revenues from ticket sales, licensed products, concessions, etc. Think about it – taking prime real estate in the center of campus and spending millions to build a structure that is used 7 days of the year. Multiplier effects are not nearly as great as claimed, and accrue to a small subset of local economies (food and drink establishments, grocers, and lodging, mainly) and are offset by increased law enforcement, traffic management, and waste management on games days.

Another interesting note, some of the faculty come to GA to be part of the football culture from the tailgating to the season tickets to the calf-eyed adoration of football players in their classes. Many would kill to be appointed one of the 3 positions on the Athletic Association Board of Directors.


October 15th, 2010
12:59 pm

NCAA Division II schools have a very strong determination to put academics in the forefront. Although athletics is strong at these schools, academics seems to be front and center. Having a student-athlete at a North Georgia for the last 4 years, I know first hand that everyone, from the coaches, the trainers and the administrators stress academics. It is not as pretty and dressed up like UGA football, but the athletic experience is still strong, you still get to travel, albeit by bus and not plane, there are still games in front of a crowd and your education is first and foremost in the minds of all.

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bootney farnsworth

October 15th, 2010
3:18 pm

not just no, hell no.
we’re broke, BOR staffers haven’t seen a real raise since the turn of the century, our benefits are skyrocketing.

and yet these morons what a football team.
one year removed from furloughs.

every president who proposes it should be fired.

once you get your budgets in order, your courses fully
supported, and do the right thing by the staff who stood
by you for a decade,

then, maybe, you can think about having your ego boosting
football team.

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October 15th, 2010
6:41 pm

If the athletic program can be self sustaining and does not use tax payer dollars obligated for instruction, it should not matter. It does say something about us when we are more interested in someone’s time in the 40 yard dash than their combined SAT score…..

athletics are great

October 15th, 2010
8:32 pm

Athletics are wonderful! I am a teacher with three degrees and love to watch football. While my undergrad or graduate schools did not offer football, I still look back on my college years and often wish I’d chosen schools that did. Athletics help boost all sorts of things for students–middle school, high school, college–whatever. For the athletes themselves, being on a team provides authentic learning in how to work with people; for those who spectate, the feeing of belonging and a recreational avenue that sports provide is immeasurable. I understand that there are some who think sports are stupid, but given that our society is full of overwight and obese people, we should actually be applauding the sports–not just thinking they are for “dumb” jocks.

GSU Alum

October 15th, 2010
11:02 pm

I was so sorry that GSU put in football. I always thought that GSU should have aspired to be the NYU of the south, but instead it seems that they just want to be another football college. When I taught at UGA, we used to pray that the alums would develop a passion for horse racing because you don’t have to try to teach horses.

I wonder why people in Georgia simply do not want academics to come first.


October 15th, 2010
11:54 pm

You all just do not understand that HS and College football is King in the south. Football in and by itself pays for itself in most colleges in the south by itself. The problem is title 9 and that it forces colleges to spend exactly the same amount of money on women’s sports as it does football. I think if a sport can pay for itself then fine have it, if it can not then dump the sport. This social engineering needs to go.


October 16th, 2010
8:48 am

What’s so wrong about providing opportunities for students to engage in competitive athletic experiences during their colleges? What’s so wrong about caring both minds and bodies?


October 16th, 2010
10:06 am

I always thought the decision by Georgia State to start up a football team was the most idiotic thing I had ever heard. You have an urban college in a downtown area who has to go to local high schools for practice/games. Crazy.

I do think there are benefits from the smaller schools having competition level athletics. However, I think they should be self-sustaining and funded entirely by ticket sales and donations. Students should not be forced to pay fees nor should tax dollars support these athletic programs.

I think the greatest benefit for students is a school having a robust intramural athletic program. As this is available to all students, I see no problem with it being supported by a student Athletic Fee.


October 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

I went to GSU for a bachelors and masters. I voted in the football feasibility study. For my entire collegiate career, I ALWAYS wanted us to have a football team. For what it’s worth, it legitimizes colleges. Is that fair? No, but that’s how it is. However, GSU is in a much more different and favorable position to begin a program. While other programs must raise money to build stadiums, GSU is blessed to have the Georgia Dome…arguable eliminating the most expensive part of building a program. While you can continue to argue and question whether we should or shouldn’t, don’t forget that the results of the feasibility study were overwhelmingly in favor. This season ticket holder is having a blast. Oh, and if you havn’t been to a game yet, hold your opinion until you actually get the experience.


October 17th, 2010
5:47 pm

I think a major aspect of having athletics in college is the fact that for most universities, the students live in the college, they eat at the college, they study there, they party their, etc. Going to class is only a minor part of the experience. Atheltics provides entertainment for those students, and it definitely provides a much more cohesive atmosphere within the school. To top that off, whether you like It or not, a football program can seriously increase the value of a degree from that school. Why is Georgia state not as recognized as uga or tech? Its not because the schools academics are any less Desirable, it’s because until now there was no football team.


October 17th, 2010
6:46 pm

@Lee – What are you talking about? GSU has their own practice facility and plays at the Dome. Get a clue, man. Also, I think you will find a lot of successful, “downtown” collegiate teams – Cincinnati, Louisville, not to mention our own Yellow Jackets.

bootney farnsworth

October 17th, 2010
7:09 pm

amazing. just amazing.

1) GSU is not using the dome for free. it costs money.
2) athletics is not about the student body, the program doesn’t give a damn if the students – who pay fees for it – live or die. football is all about image
3) football does not litigimize a college. it whores it.
4) the vast majority of football programs do NOT pay for themselves. the majority lose money on the deal.
5) it’s pathetic someone looks back on college and regrets not chosing a school with a football program.
6) the majority of college football players are not part of a general student body – they are cherry picked by coaches.
7) football does not increase the value of a degree from a school – thats just stupid
8) most alleged student athletes at the big schools couldn’t give a damna about the education. there’s a reason so many don’t bother to finish.

football is about ego, nothing more.

bootney farnsworth

October 17th, 2010
7:09 pm

Enter your comments here


October 18th, 2010
12:00 am

Football doesn’t help the value of the degree? There’s a reason that UGA kids believe hat they are all that. They don’t realize that academically a lot of degrees at Georgia State are rated higher than their own degrees. The reason that they do is because people who don’t care about academics care about Georgia football. Do people outside of Georgia know about Medical College of Georgia? Not unless they have a reason to. Whether you like it or not, football can turn what would be a little known school into a house hold name.


October 18th, 2010
12:13 am

Amazing. Just amazing and I bet bootney farnsworth voted for Obama too…


October 18th, 2010
2:18 am

Bootney Farnsworth, you are an extremely narrow-minded individual. If you think that’s all football programs bring, you seriously know nothing about Universities. As people have said, one of the largest attractions to Universities is the atheltics department. Among those are many students that won’t perform well, however there’s tons who will become outstanding scholars. A University like Georgia State loses out huge due to not having a football team when it rivals other Universities like UGA and GT. If you seriously think that the athletics program is only about image, there’s no freaking way you have a college degree.

Jim Tavegia

October 18th, 2010
2:57 pm

I would have basketball, baseball, tennis, and track. Football is too expensive. I played football and baseball in college and if I had to do it all over again I would have taken piano lessons. Unless you have the ability and aspirations to play in the NFL (a career) it is a waste of time. Spend more time doing something that will last a lifetime. For over 99% of students, football is not it.