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TBR committee approves ETSU football fee; full Board will vote Friday

Rex Barber • Mar 27, 2013 at 10:22 PM

East Tennessee State University is now at first and goal with regards to having a new football team.

Members of the Tennessee Board of Regents Finance and Business Operations Committee approved a new $125 athletic fee per semester for students beginning this fall at a meeting in Franklin on Wednesday. The full board will vote on this recommendation Friday. The TBR governs ETSU.

If the board members vote to approve the fee, ETSU will be able to begin the process of starting a team.

“Today was a significant step taking us towards that end decision,” said ETSU President Brian Noland, adding that next week, he plans to make an announcement regarding the future direction of the program, should the fee be approved Friday.

This fee is necessary to start a football program because it would generate about $2.5 million this next academic year for the program. Each year after that, the fee would provide about $2.8 million to support football.

ETSU’s Student Government Association voted in January for a student proposal to ask Noland to request the TBR approve the fee to start a football team.

Members of the TBR committee asked Noland, who was present for the meeting, questions about the time frame for establishing a program, due diligence in developing the pro forma that outlines estimated expenditures and revenues for a possible ETSU football program, the history of ETSU football and that SGA vote in January.

An effort to recall the vote by the SGA was under way on campus. Noland was asked about that and told committee members the recall would not happen because not enough signatures were gathered on the necessary petition, per the SGA constitution.

An estimate for expenses for a football team would be just under $4.9 million per year by 2018-19, according to a pro forma ETSU released earlier this month. Expenses not covered by the proposed fee would be covered by NCAA scholarship fee distributions, game guarantees, marketing/promotions contracts, radio contracts, concessions, merchandise and fundraising.

Committee members asked Noland if the fee would increase.

“That pro forma, for all intents and purposes, shows us running through the close of the decade in solid shape,” Noland said in response to that question after an interview following the meeting.

ETSU fielded a football team until the end of the 2003 season. The football program was canceled due to financial reasons. A referendum was put before the student body in 2007 to resurrect football, but was defeated. After Noland became president in November 2011, renewed interest grew in starting football. A recommendation was made in December by a task force charged with studying athletics to look at establishing a football program.

The SGA vote was held about seven weeks later.

If the fee is approved, ETSU would still not have the most expensive athletics fee of TBR schools.

“Without football, our budgets are sixth, and there are six Board of Regents (universities), so that’s last,” Noland said. “With this we would move into the middle of the pack at three.”

Noland said he will regroup with his staff if the board votes in favor of the fee and make sure “all the ‘i’s are dotted and ‘t’s crossed” with regards to the pro forma before moving forward next week with the next step.

“We will have a major announcement prior to Final Four,” Noland said.

If the fee is approved Friday, ETSU Interim Athletics Director Richard Sander has said things would move quickly to establish a new football program. A head coach would be sought and probably hired by May. A team could be on the field by fall 2015.

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