Football fans at East Tennessee State University are hoping to restore a gridiron program that was sacked by the university nine years ago. Bringing football back to ETSU is also a topic of conversation for campus leaders.
In May, ETSU President Brian Noland announced the formation of a committee to map out a vision for what the university should look like in 2036. In an interview with Press Managing Sports Editor Kelly Hodge, Noland said the panel will look at a number of sports-related issues, including the return of a football program.
“We’ll look at athletics, so there will be an entire task force devoted to athletics,” Noland said. “What are the expectations of athletics within the mix of the institution? How can we utilize athletics to deepen student engagement and community involvement? What is our mix of programs?
“Should we add lacrosse? Should we add football? Are we in the right conference? What is the level of investment that we’re making? So within that total examination of athletics, we’ll look at football.”
The final chapter in the 80-year history of Buccaneer football appeared to have been written in 2003. Months before the season started, then ETSU President Paul Stanton announced it would be the last for the university’s football program. Stanton said football was losing nearly $1 million a year, draining limited state dollars from the university’s other sports and academic programs.
In addition to running a deficit, football was in desperate need of as much as $400,000 in additional funding to make the program competitive with other Southern Conference schools and another $400,000 to cover Title IX gender equity requirements for additional athletic programs and scholarships for women. At least $2 million in new annual private donations would have been needed to save the program.
The decision to drop football was not popular either among former players or the fans who regularly attended ETSU home games. The demise of football forced ETSU to leave the Southern Conference — a move that hasn’t been embraced by many fans of the university’s basketball program. The Buccaneer Football & Friends Foundation was organized in an attempt to bring football back to the university.
We want to hear what you think. Should a football program be restored at ETSU?
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