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ETSU scores necessary fee to start football program; students hope for success

Rex Barber • Mar 29, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Students Asiana Jones and Autumn Patterson hope East Tennessee State University’s future football team is successful now that they know they’ll be helping pay for it.

“I mean, I like football games,” Jones said. “I went to football games in high school, so I’ll see what it’s about but I hope they’re good if I’m paying.”

After a near 10-year absence from the gridiron, ETSU administrators have the means to start a new football program now that a $125-per-student athletic fee was approved at the quarterly meeting of the Tennessee Board of Regents Friday. TBR governs ETSU.

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

Jones, a freshman majoring in psychology, was unaware students would have to pay for a football team when told of Friday’s TBR meeting.

“So if I’m paying for them they need to be, like, good, for me to go to their games and, yeah, they need to be recruiting some good people,” she said.

Patterson is also a freshman who is studying criminal justice.

“I’m glad that we’re getting a football team because more sports are better and football is definitely a favored sport in America, so that’s good,” she said. “But I don’t really quite like that we’re having to pay for it, the students.”

Patterson also wanted the team to be good if it costs her money.

ETSU President Brian Noland spoke to the Johnson City Press via phone after the TBR meeting and said this weekend he and others will finalize plans for football and make priorities with regards to establishing a team.

A search for a head coach will likely soon be underway, as the plan for a few months now has been to field a team by fall 2015 if the fee was approved.

“Our plan is to have an announcement next week,” Noland said regarding the next steps in the football process. “We’re going to come back and over the weekend, on Monday dot the ‘i’s, cross the ‘t’s, make sure everything is where it needs to be, probably reach out to some folks across campus, across the community.”

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.

ETSU fielded a football team until the end of the 2003 season. The football program was canceled due to financial reasons. A referendum to bring back football was defeated in 2007 by a student vote. Renewed interest in starting football again developed after Noland became president in November 2011. A recommendation was made in December by a task force charged with studying athletics to look at establishing an ETSU football program.

ETSU’s Student Government Association put forth and approved the $125 athletic fee to support football in January. That proposal worked it’s way through the TBR system, culminating in Friday’s approval vote.

Besides approving the football fee, the Board of Regents also approved a $20-per-year fee that will extend the hours of operation for the school library.

Because of these so-called “mandatory” fees, students at ETSU will see a base four percent increase in the cost of their education next year, according to TBR documentation.

So, with those two fees, ETSU undergraduate students will pay a base cost of $6,985 for a year of school this upcoming year. This is before a general tuition hike is considered in June, which could be up to six percent on top of the fees approved Friday. Assuming a three percent increase in tuition in June, that would mean ETSU students would have a total cost of $7,154 for a year of classes before major/minor-specific fees are added, according to TBR documents.

This represents a total increase of 6.5 percent in total mandatory fees for the 2013-14 school year over this year. This is the highest percent increase among TBR universities; however, of the six universities in the TBR system, ETSU would rank third in cost, which is the same as this year.

It is important to note that figure for tuition for next year could change.

Randal Johnson is a junior majoring in criminal justice. He was aware of the fee required to support a football team and thought the idea of a new football team was a good thing.

“I’m actually excited about it,” he said. “I feel it’ll be good for the community, for the school. You know, I think it may bring some business in for the businesses that are right here in the region. But I feel that it’s possible that 10 years down the road it could make my degree be worth more, you know, because it’s going to bring that popularity aspect and maybe a little bit more prestige to the school, so I think it’s a good idea.”

Brittany Reagan, a student majoring in business administration, said the football program has positive and negative aspects.

“I mean, pretty much every school around here has football, even some of the really tiny schools,” she said. “But the reason they got rid of it in the first place was because it wasn’t making enough money to even pay for the football itself, whereas with most schools it pays for football and all the other sports as well.

“If they get a good team and the get people to come watch it, I think it could be a good thing. Otherwise I think it’ll end up doing the same thing.”

Megan Cutshaw, a freshman majoring in nursing, was just fine with her school pursuing football.

“I would really like to have a football team, and I feel like that would be something that I would pay for, because I think ETSU really needs something like that for students to get involved in,” she said.

Jasmine Andrews, a junior studying exercise science, said people like football, so a new program should be successful.

“I think it’ll actually be better if we get a football team,” she said. “Students can get more involved in athletics, because I feel like students on this campus are not involved like they should.”

Andrews shrugged off the extra $125 per semester.

“I’m not going to like it but you got to do what you got to do,” she said. “It wouldn’t make a difference if I went to another school, you know.”

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