The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today that seven new college football teams will take the field for the first time this season, increasing the number of schools across all NCAA divisions and the NAIA offering football to 767, an all-time high.
Since 1978 when the NCAA changed its method for tracking attendance figures, the number of schools playing NCAA football (FBS, FCS, DII and DII) has steadily increased by 173 schools from 484 in 1978 to a record high of 657 in 2013, or an average increase of 4.9 schools per year. In the past three seasons alone (2011-13), 25 football programs have been added at NCAA or NAIA institutions.
Universities and colleges are adding football at all levels, and administrators have developed sound plans, ensuring the new programs address the unique financial, academic and long-term objectives of their respective schools. The 60 institutions listed below, who have implemented firm plans during the past few years, coupled together with the more than 20 schools with exploratory committees, create a clear and undeniable trend that presidents and trustees nationwide see the value of a football program as part of their overall academic mission.
“No other sport contributes more to the vibrancy of a college campus than football, and the trend of adding programs continues full force,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “University and college presidents clearly see the value of having programs on their campuses, and we applaud them for understanding the role football can play in the educational experience of all their students.”
The rationale for adding football varies at each institution, and all of the decision makers who helped develop a plan for launching a program explain that an in-depth study played a critical role in finding the right level of play and the proper financial balance. Small colleges may cite increasing enrollment and addressing gender imbalances while larger universities might highlight the role of football in raising the institution’s profile and its ability to attract research grants. All mention creating a more vibrant on-campus community and connecting with alumni.
“With more than one million high school students playing football and less than 70,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll.”
The schools have added programs at all levels of play in every region of the country, experiencing successes that run the gamut. In only its third season, the University of Texas at San Antonio finished second in the West Division of Conference USA in 2013 while quarterback Eric Soza was honored as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete. Kennesaw State in Kennesaw, Ga., has seen incredible support as it prepares for its inaugural season in 2015, surpassing 3,000 season ticket deposits earlier this month, a number that represents 83 percent of the available tickets at its stadium.
Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, which started its football program in 2008, won the 2013 NAIA National Championship in only its sixth season of play. In all, the 44 programs that have added football from 2008-13 have combined for 10 conference championships and 12 playoff appearances.
These are just some of the impressive achievements at schools that have recently added football. Others include notching impressive attendance figures; attracting increased enrollment; garnering national publicity; expanding their donor bases; and receiving invitations to join conferences at the next level.
Well-thought-out plans have allowed schools to move swiftly in fielding teams. Paine College in Augusta, Ga., which announced the launch of its football program less than two years ago, will play its first full season this fall in NCAA Division II’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after starting as a club team in 2013. The historically black college, located about two hours from the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, is reviving its football program after a more than 50-year absence.
“We’re in the second largest city in Georgia and we don’t have college football here on a weekly basis,” said Paine College Athletics Director Tim Duncan. “Football is important in the South. It’s almost a religion here. I think it’s important in a state like Georgia that’s football crazy to have that option for our students and alumni. The response has already been tremendous. Last year we had three home club games that drew extremely well, and we only expect to see more fans as we start to play the big name schools in our conference.”
Duncan cited increasing enrollment as a prime reason for adding a football program. Early returns are positive as the school added 150 student-athletes in the year following the announcement, increasing enrollment by 11 percent. Paine is a smaller college with approximately 900 students enrolled.
“Those 150 student-athletes are almost 20 percent of the campus,” said Duncan. “Acclimating that many new students into what we already do was something we had to make sure we were prepared for. And we’ll have 28 scholarships, above the conference average of 25, so we look to be competitive sooner versus later. In five to 10 years I expect us to be competing for championships on a regular basis.”
When the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) opened its doors in 1973, it was an upper-level institution with courses at the junior, senior and graduate level only. The school waited nearly 20 years before launching its athletics department in1994 with the addition of two club teams. Located in Odessa, Texas, the home of “Friday Night Lights,” UTPB seemed like the perfect fit for a football team.
“From the time I came here, there has always been discussion about a football team,” said UTPB Athletics Director Steve Aicinena, who has headed the department since its inception. “There has always been an interest in the community and pretty much an expectation that there would be a college football team here because of where we’re located and the importance of football in our part of the country. We believe football will enhance our on campus experience, enrollment numbers and community interest in the university.”
UTPB has begun the early planning stage of adding football, and the ut System Board of Regents approved the school’s Football Initiative Business Plan in December. The university must raise $9.5 million by the end of 2014, which would allow the football program to operate without any additional charge to the student body for five years, and the required fundraising appears to be on track. If UTPB meets all the benchmarks, the school plans to have a coach in place by January 2015 and field a Division II team for the 2016 season.
“We’re used to being underdogs in everything we do,” said UTPB President W. David Watts. “We’re going to bring that fighting spirit that underdogs have, and I think we’re going to surprise our competitor institutions and the nation with our success. We’re fully planning on being a successful football team.”
Adding a football program requires experienced leadership. The University of West Florida, who will begin play in Division II in 2016, believes it found that leadership when it hired head coach Pete Shinnick in January. Shinnick comes to Pensacola, Fla., after previously bringing football back after a 50-year hiatus to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2007. He took the school to the Division II playoffs in only its third season, and he finished his seven-year tenure with a 50-24 record. West Florida believes Shinnick can deliver on the goals set forth by the university to enhance the campus experience and get football off on the right foot.
“Adding football at UWF is long overdue,” said West Florida President Judy Bense at the time of Shinnick’s hiring. “It will bring new excitement and vibrancy to our campus and community. Shinnick is the right man for the job. He is a demonstrated leader and has built a winning team from scratch. I am pleased he will join us at UWF and carry forward our vision.”
Having gone through the football building process before, Shinnick knows the challenges of starting a program from scratch, but said after four months on the job that the momentum is moving in the right direction. Shinnick knows the significant impact football can have on a college campus.
“One of the reasons people start football is to complete the college atmosphere,” said Shinnick. “You want to make your university have that homecoming around the football game, make Saturdays in the fall a time to stick around campus. Most campuses that don’t have football probably have a little bit of a commuter tag to them. People come in, go to class and then leave on the weekends. Football keeps students around on campus over the weekends.”
West Florida Athletics Director Dave Scott has seen a great response from student body and the community. Scott believes that football can greatly enhance student life and grow the university’s enrollment. He cited how football will help West Florida market its academic programs to the area by providing another opportunity for student-athletes at the Division II level.
“We’re going to hit 50 years in 2017, which for most academic institutions is fairly young,” said Scott. “Football will help increase people’s awareness and marketing of the university. You have kids that choose institutions because of traditions, and when you’re a young institution you’re trying to establish those traditions and establish that connection to your community.”
Scott views introducing football as part of the maturation process of a university, and he added when used correctly football programs become the front porch of an institution.
“Since we made the announcement, in the eyes of the community and students that we are recruiting, all of a sudden we’re a bigger institution,” said Scott. “Are we really? No. But because we’ve added football, people perceive us that way.”
Seven Programs Launching in 2014
- Arizona Christian University (Phoenix, Ariz.): NAIA, Independent – President Len Munsil, Athletics Director Jeff Rutter, Head Coach Donnie Yantis.
- The College of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho): NAIA, Frontier Conference – President Marv Henberg, Athletics Director Marty Holly, Head Coach Mike Moroski.
- George Fox University (Newberg, Ore.): NCAA Division III, Northwest Conference – PresidentRobin Baker, Athletics Director Craig Taylor; Head Coach Chris Casey.
- Limestone College (Gaffney, S.C.): NCAA Division II, Independent – President Walt Griffin, Athletics Director Mike Cerino and Head Coach Bobby James.
- Missouri Baptist University (Saint Louis, Mo.): NAIA, Independent (Subsequently joining the Mid-States Football Association in 2015) – President R. Alton Lacey, Athletics Director Tom Smithand Head Coach Jason Burianek.
- Paine College (Augusta, Ga.): NCAA Division II, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – President George C. Bradley, Athletics Director Tim Duncan and Head Coach Gregory Ruffin.
- Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.): NAIA, The Sun Conference – President Kent Ingle, Athletic Director Drew Watson and Head Coach Keith Barefield.
Nine Programs Launching in 2015-16
- East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southern Conference (2015, with a full conference schedule in 2016) – President Brian Noland, Athletics Director Richard Sander, Head Coach Carl Torbush.
- Finlandia University (Hancock, Mich.): NCAA Division III, Conference TBA (2015) – PresidentPhilip Johnson, Athletics Director Chris Salani, Head Coach Tim Driscoll.
- Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Big South Conference (2015) – President Daniel S. Papp, Athletics Director Vaughn Williams, Head Coach Brain Bohannon.
- Lyon College (Batesville, Ark.): NAIA, Central States Football League (2015) – President Donald Weatherman, Athletics Director Kevin Jenkins, Head Coach Kirk Kelley.
- 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.): NCAA Division III, Conference TBA (2016) – PresidentTim Morthland, Athletics Director and Head Coach Mike Rude.
- University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa, Texas): NCAA Division II, Conference TBA (2016) – President W. David Watts, Athletics Director Steve Aicinena, Head Coach TBA.
- 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 New Orleans (New Orleans, La.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Southland Conference (Date TBA) – President Peter J. Fos, Athletics Director Derek Morel, Head Coach TBA.
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.): NAIA, Central States Football League
- 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, PioneerFootball League
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.): NCAA Division I FootballChampionship Subdivision, Independent (Joining the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA in 2015)
- 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, Independent (Joining the Mid-StatesFootball Association in 2015)
- 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
Eight Programs Launched in 2011
- Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, Fla.): NAIA, The Sun Conference
- Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Mich.): NAIA, Mid-States Football Association
- 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 FootballConference
- 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, Mid-States Football Association
- Kentucky Christian University (Grayson, Ky.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference
- Lake Erie College (Painesville, Ohio): NCAA Division II, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
- Lincoln University of Pennsylvania (Lincoln University, Pa.): NCAA Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association