Since the day UAB cut the program, I’ve been very outspoken about the fact that I think it was an isolated incident. I’ve spoken to athletic directors and presidents around the country, and no one believed any other school was seriously considering dropping football.
Need more convincing? The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame announced today that colleges and universities offering football is at an all-time high of 773 programs with four new teams taking the field this fall: East Tennessee State University and Kennesaw State University begin in the Football Championship Series, Finlandia University starts a Division III team, and Lyon College joins at the NAIA level.
Current tabulations have eight additional programs launching from 2016-2018, including UAB’s reinstated program. From 1978 to 2014, 179 football programs were added to colleges and universities across the country.
There’s an entire chapter in my book Saturday Millionaires: Why Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges about the benefits of a big-time college football program, from increased enrollment to free advertising for the university. Although my book focuses on programs at the FBS level, programs at other levels often experience some of the same benefits.
Finlandia University, for example, is launching seven new athletic programs over the next seven years in an attempt to increase its enrollment, which currently sits at just 485. The goal is to bring in 217 additional student athletes (70 for football alone), which would result in a whopping 44 percent increase in enrollment.
Finlandia’s current tuition is $21,610 annually (and there are no athletic scholarship at the Division III level), equating to a $4.7 million increase in revenue annually if there were 217 additional students (obviously not accounting for any discounted tuition rates or financial aid that might impact Finlandia’s bottom line).
What Finlandia is doing is nothing new. It’s a trend we’ve seen at quite a few smaller schools in recent years.
Included with the NFF’s press release was a great list showing all of the programs being added in the next few years, as well as a look back at additions made since 2008:
Four Programs Launching in 2015
- East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Independent (Subsequently joining Southern Conference in 2016) – President Brian Noland, Athletics Director Richard Sander, Head Coach Carl Torbush.
- Finlandia University (Hancock, Mich.): NCAA Division III, Independent – President Philip Johnson, Athletics Director Chris Salani, Head Coach Tim Driscoll.
- Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Big South Conference – President Daniel S. Papp, Athletics Director Vaughn Williams, Head Coach Brain Bohannon.
- Lyon College (Batesville, Ark.): NAIA, Central States Football League – President Donald Weatherman, Athletics Director Kevin Jenkins, Head Coach Kirk Kelley.
Eight Programs Launching from 2016-18
(Listed chronologically and then alphabetically.)
- Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati, Ohio): NAIA, Conference TBA (2016) – President Ken Tracy, Athletics Director Beth Rogers, Head Coach David Fulcher.
- Davenport University (Grand Rapids, Mich.): NAIA, Conference TBA (2016) – President Richard J. Pappas, Athletics Director Paul Lowden, Head Coach Lou Esposito.
- Morthland College(West Frankfort, Ill.): Division TBA, Conference TBA (JV Schedule in 2015, full varsity schedule in 2016) – President Tim Morthland, Athletics Director and Head Coach Mike Rude.
- University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa, Texas): NCAA Division II, Lone Star Conference (2016) – President W. David Watts, Athletics Director Steve Aicinena, Head Coach Justin Carrigan.
- University of West Florida (Pensacola, Fla.): NCAA Division II, Gulf South Conference (2016) – President Judith Bense, Athletics Director Dave Scott, Head Coach Pete Shinnick.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Ala.): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Conference USA (2017) – President Ray L. Watts, Athletics Director Mark Ingram, Head Coach Bill Clark.
- University of New England(Biddeford, Maine): NCAA Division III, Conference TBA (2017) – President Danielle N. Ripich, Athletics Director Jack McDonald, Head Coach TBA.
- Clarke University (Dubuque, Iowa): NAIA, Heart of America Athletic Conference (2018) – President Joanne Burrows, Athletics Director Curt Long, Head Coach TBA.
Six Programs Launched in 2014
- Arizona Christian University (Phoenix, Ariz.): NAIA, Central States Football League
- College of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho): NAIA, Frontier Conference
- George Fox University (Newberg, Ore.): NCAA Division III, Northwest Conference
- Limestone College (Gaffney, S.C.): NCAA Division II, Independent
- Missouri Baptist University (Saint Louis, Mo.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.): NAIA, The Sun Conference
12 Programs Launched in 2013
- Alderson Broaddus University (Philippi, W.Va.): NCAA Division II, Independent
- Berry College (Mount Berry, Ga.): NCAA Division III, Southern Athletic Association
- Florida Tech (Melbourne, Fla.): NCAA Division II, Gulf South Conference
- Hendrix College (Conway, Ark.): NCAA Division III, Southern Athletic Association
- Houston Baptist University (Houston, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference
- Mercer University (Macon, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southern Conference
- Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Okla.): NCAA Division II, Great American Conference
- Reinhardt University (Waleska, Ga.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference
- Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas): NCAA Division III, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference
- Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Pioneer Football League
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Conference USA
- Warner University (Lake Wales, Fla.): NAIA, The Sun Conference
Five Programs Launched in 2012
- Bluefield College (Bluefield, Va.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference
- Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville,Ill.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- Misericordia University (Dallas, Pa.): NCAA Division III, Middle Atlantic Conferences
- Point University (West Point, Ga.): NAIA, The Sun Conference
- Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, Texas): NAIA, Central States Football League
Nine Programs Launched in 2011
- Ave Maria University(Ave Maria, Fla.): NAIA, The Sun Conference
- Concordia University Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Mich.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- Ohio Mid-Western College (Sharonville, Ohio): Independent
- Presentation College (Aberdeen, S.D.): NAIA, North Star Athletic Association
- Robert Morris University (Chicago, Ill.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- Siena Heights University (Adrian, Mich.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- Stevenson University (Owings Mills, Md.): NCAA Division III, Middle Atlantic Conferences
- University of Texas at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Conference USA
- Virginia University of Lynchburg (Lynchburg, Va.): Independent
Six Programs Launched in 2010
- Georgia State University (Atlanta, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Sun Belt Conference
- Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference
- Lindsey Wilson College (Columbia, Ky.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference
- Notre Dame College (South Euclid, Ohio): NCAA Division II, Mountain East Conference
- Pacific University (Forest Grove, Ore.): NCAA Division III, Northwest Conference
- University of South Alabama (Mobile, Ala.): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Sun Belt Conference
Five Programs Launched in 2009
- Anna Maria College (Paxton, Mass.): NCAA Division III, Eastern Collegiate Football Conference
- Castleton State College (Castleton, Vt.): NCAA Division III, Eastern Collegiate Football Conference
- Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.): NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Conference USA
- University of New Haven (West Haven, Conn.): NCAA Division II, Northeast-10 Conference
- University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, Texas): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference
Eight Programs Launched in 2008
- Campbell University (Buies Creek, N.C.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Pioneer Football League
- College of St. Scholastica (Duluth, Minn.): NCAA Division III, Upper Midwest Athletic Conference
- Colorado State University–Pueblo (Pueblo, Colo.): NCAA Division II, Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference
- Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa): NAIA, Great Plains Athletic Conference
- Grand View University (Des Moines, Iowa): NAIA, Heart of America Athletic Conference
- Kentucky Christian University (Grayson, Ky.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference
- Lake Erie College (Painesville, Ohio): NCAA Division II, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
- The Lincoln University (Lincoln University, Pa.): NCAA Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association
*In the interest of full disclosure, I was on the College Sports Solutions team that produced a study for UAB in May.
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