University of no football?

Hunter Hortsman

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It has been the big question here on campus for years… since 1972 to be exact: when are we getting a football team?

Back then, the University’s goal was to have a football team by 2006. Now, it is the 2019-2020 school year and we are still not even close to having a team.

A lot of things need to happen, but getting a football team can go from a dream to a reality. The first thing that needs to be done, of course, is we need to get a stadium for the team to play in, as Hodges Stadium would not cut it for football. It only seats 9,400 fans, which would not bring in enough ticket sales to support the team. Not to mention, with the nine-lane track between the stands and the field, Hodges would not be the best for creating revenue and for the overall fan experience. Hodges can serve as a great practice field if needed but would not cut it for an actual stadium.

The University Athletics Program projected a total cost of $126 million if they were to build a stadium that sits roughly 30,000, which is the kind of size you would need to support a college football team.

With student fees for athletics currently at $19.53, UNF would need to increase the fees or bring in more students to the University in order to achieve funding for the stadium… either student fees will skyrocket or enrollment needs to double. UNF would need to have 25,000 enrolled students to support a football team according to the Athletics Department. With enrollment a little over 16,000 students now, we would need to double in size. UNF Admissions has made a statement that they will not change their standards because of football, either.

The University exceeded a 10,000 student body population in 1995. Within 23 years, the University’s population grew about 60 percent, which is not bad.

Going off those numbers, if the University grows 60 percent again in another 23 years, then the student body population will be 26,400 by the year 2041. By then, we should have enough student fees coming in to support a team.

Of course, after creating the stadium that costs roughly $126 million, you still have to pay for a coaching staff, game day staff, athletic trainers, equipment and players’ scholarships.This can all be very expensive as well. A coaching staff can cost up to $5 million a year, easily. Game day staff, including merchandise sales, food and beverage sales, and SAFE staff can add up every home game by a few hundred thousand dollars. Football equipment can cost up to $1,000 a player to be fully dressed for games (helmet, jersey, pads).

Additionally, we would probably be a football championship subdivision school compared to a football bowl subdivision school, meaning we would have a roster of 85 players.

Therefore, it would cost $85,000 just to dress the team for game day. As an FCS school, we would have to give up to 63 full ride scholarships for the 85 man roster. A four-year education here at UNF, which includes room and board, a meal plan, parking and tuition, would cost up to $60,000, which means the team would be giving up about $3.78 million worth of scholarships, or about $945,000 a year. Plus, traveling for road games can cost thousands of dollars, as well. After paying, all of this could add up to about $140 million in startup costs and about $10 million in annual expenses.

The University also needs to be compliant with Title IX rules to make this happen which means UNF has to provide equal participation opportunities to both men and women that are proportional to the amount of full-time undergraduate students attending the school.

Bringing in a football team, especially a brand new one, needs a lot of support; Support from students, staff and also alumni. In order to bring in enough revenue to pay for expenses, there also needs to be fans in the stands.

It is very hard to have a championship contender team from scratch. Fans, students and alumni will have to accept a rocky road the first few years having a team. Do we really need a football team? Some students and Jacksonville locals believe so. Bringing in a football team could be the difference in making UNF go from a commuter school to UNF bringing in more students on campus and having the “big campus” feel to the school.

“Bringing a football team will bring in more money, sports and social events” says Shelby Babson a Senior Criminal Justice Major. However, a lot of students come here to enjoy the small school experience as well and believe bringing in a football team could ruin that vibe on campus.“Football creates an unwanted intense and competitive environment. It also creates a social class system that I hated in high school.” said Mikayla Marshall a Sophomore studying English.

Will UNF bring in a football team anytime soon? Doubtful. The closest date we could expect to see a potential team would be 2026, and that’s if we have the funding and student population to bring in the team.

Shooting more towards 2040s will be more realistic. Our future children may be UNF students by the time we get a football team. But hey, on the bright side, we are still undefeated!

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