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Opinion: Why UNCG Doesn't Have Football - And Why It Doesn't Need It
This opinion piece takes UNCC’s football plans and hypothesizing that UNCG shouldn’t want to start football - even though thse costs at UNCC and UNCG would be completely different.
Should there be helmets and shoulder pads in UNCG’s future?
It’s a tempting thought.
As someone who has taught there off and on, I’ve heard students grumble that the school lacks a football team – and that a homecoming soccer game just doesn’t cut it.
I’ve heard them call UNCG a “suitcase school” and suggest that college football could be the remedy.
I don’t know about that.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy college football on sunny fall afternoons as much as the next guy – especially at UNCG’s crosstown sister campus, N.C. A&T, where the battle of the bands at halftime can be as compelling as the games themselves.
UNCG is almost close enough to A&T that you can hear the drumbeat of the Aggie marching band. And I can understand the sibling envy that probably stirs.
But I see his point when UNCG’s longtime athletics director, Nelson Bobb, a former football player and coach, says, “No thanks,” when the question of football periodically surfaces. “I don’t think it fits at UNCG,” Bobb says.
UNCG has an attractive campus and a growing athletics tradition without football. Student social life is not as, uh, Spartan, as it used to be when I first taught there 20 years ago.
As evidence, visit the plush and expanded Elliott University Center, for which the words “student union” seem hardly adequate.
Besides, college football, especially on the highest level, is a very risky and expensive proposition.
Even so, another state university, UNC-Charlotte, desperately wants a team and is seriously exploring how to make it happen.
The school envisions fielding a team by the year 2012. Charlotte first would compete in the NCAA’s “Football Championship Subdivision,” which once was known simply as Division 1-AA. A&T, Appalachian State and Elon play on that level.
In 2016, they would move up to the big leagues, the “Football Bowl Subdivision,” formerly known as Division 1-A. Miami and Notre Dame compete on that level.
Two former presidents of the UNC system, C.D. “Dick” Spangler and William Friday, have said they oppose Charlotte’s plans. Football would threaten the “integrity” and academics at the school, they argue.
I don’t know about that, either.
Do they threaten academic integrity at any of the other UNC campuses that field football teams?
The folks in Charlotte should be able to do what they want with football. But I still wouldn’t go there if I were them.
And I’m glad UNCG has no designs on similar ambitions. At least for now. Here are a few reasons why:
* For all the potential rewards of college football, it simply costs too much. A study released last week by UNC-Charlotte and presented by its chancellor, Phil Dubois, likely inflicted group heartburn, even in the eternally optimistic Queen City. The report found some “critical” costs not considered in an earlier study, including as much as $75 million for a new stadium, or $20 million for a renovated facility, plus $30 million for “an auxiliary building and practice fields.” Then there are marketing costs ($1 million), a conference entry fee ($3 million) and operating costs ($1 million).
* Building a big-time football program from the ground up is hard enough. But even schools that have established football traditions – including A&T – have blanched and meekly said “never mind” when they’ve realized what that meant.
* UNCG can build its reputation on its existing athletics programs, especially basketball, where it already can be reasonably competitive with the Dukes and Carolinas of the world. And where it only takes a few good players, and a few breaks, to make national waves.
* If UNC-Charlotte is any indication, students would have to bear part of the costs of the football program. Student athletics fees there would balloon to at least $745, $300 more than any UNC system school charges.
And while it’s true that another local school, tiny Greensboro College, did start a football program from scratch in 1997, its ambitions, and the costs involved, were infinitely more modest. It plays on college football’s lowest rung, in Division III. It provides no athletic scholarships. The players boost overall enrollment. Games give the student body another pleasant diversion on autumn Saturdays.
In short, if I were UNCG, I’d be happy where I am.
As for UNC-Charlotte, its sights are high and its pockets are deep. More power to its leaders, if they’ve stared into the abyss and still want to jump in.
But if I were them, I’d settle for Panthers tickets.
Allen Johnson: Why UNCG doesn’t have a football program – and why it doesn’t need one
By Allen Johnson, The News & Record