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VCU Considers Adding Football Program
Athletic Director Teague has said such a move would redefine school’s athletics.
Is football in Virginia Commonwealth University’s future?
Any campaign to add football would have to be championed by a new president. But VCU Athletics Director Norwood Teague said he expects the idea will be explored at some point.
“I think it will be difficult for us not to have a serious discussion about it because of [the size of the university],” he said. “We’re not the VCU of 15 years ago, where you have a lot of commuters and a lot of people who are transient. This is a destination school.”
VCU is the state’s largest university with almost 32,000 students.
Dr. Eugene P. Trani, VCU’s president since 1990, has said the Rams would not have football during his tenure. Trani is stepping down July 1, 2009.
His successor is expected to be selected by the spring. Thomas Rosenthal, VCU’s rector, said football has been mentioned in surveys and meetings conducted by the search committee, but it has not been a prominent topic.
VCU would need to generate millions of dollars in startup costs and annual expenses, find or build a stadium and practice facilities, and add women’s sports to be in compliance with Title IX.
“It would redefine athletics, and it would redefine a lot of what we do as a university,” Teague said. “I don’t know what the appetite truly is on campus or with our board. I do know it is expensive.”
If the new president were to present football to VCU’s board of visitors, Rosenthal said, “I’m sure there are some [members] who would be in favor of it, and I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t.”
Old Dominion and Georgia State are adding football and will begin play in the Division I-AA Colonial Athletic Association in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
“With Old Dominion bringing in football, that probably throws another log on the fire at a couple of places,” CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said.
Robert Fenning, ODU’s vice president for finance and administration, said a reasonable estimate to start football is $4 million-$5 million. That figure does not include facilities and additional women’s sports.
ODU officials project annual operating costs to be $2.2 million.
Then there is the $24.1 million makeover of Old Dominion’s on-campus stadium, Foreman Field, and the $17 million Powhatan Sports Complex, which has two football practice fields and is home to field hockey and women’s lacrosse.
ODU added three women’s sports: crew, volleyball and softball.
To help with funding, Old Dominion raised student activities fees. A student taking 30 credit hours this year is paying $1,313 in fees that go to athletics ($2,535 total fees), up $479 from 2005.
A student taking 30 credit hours at VCU is paying about $400 in fees that goes to athletics, said Jeff Cupps, VCU’s senior associate athletic director.
“I would think that if we were to [add football] down the road, there would be a large student fee increase,” Teague said.
VCU would face another obstacle – a stadium and practice fields. With the University of Richmond moving to an on-campus stadium in 2010, city-owned UR Stadium might be available.
“Huge [question],” Teague said. “I don’t know what we’d do.”
VCU considers adding football program
By Tim Pearrell, The Richmond Times-Dispatch