Vanessa Idigbe
Mercury Staff

Adding football to UTD will bring long-term benefits

Implementing a football program at UTD will improve the social scene on campus.

With the college football season fast approaching, it’s more glaring than ever that UTD doesn’t have a football team. While the school’s brand-new tier one status is evidence that we are heading in the right direction academically, in aspects such as traditional sports, our progress could be better. It would be more understandable if the school was smaller, but for a campus with over 30,000 students, I believe it’s time that we invested into our sports programs, and in particular, the implementation of a football program.

At least once a month there’s a post on the UTD subreddit about social life on campus, either complaining about how we don’t have much of one at all or suggestions on what can be done to improve school spirit. In a 2017 list by The Princeton Review, UTD ranked fourth in universities with the unhappiest students. While a football team certainly wouldn’t reverse the issue immediately, it would be a big step in a long process of revitalizing the social scene on campus. Football unites a school in a way few sports are able to and creates an atmosphere buzzing with anticipation and excitement. The addition of a football program would grant students tremendous opportunities to get creative, but — like everything on campus — it’s up to the students to make use of it.

During football season last year, I would often see pictures and videos of my friends at their college football games, and although I’d deny it if they asked, I sometimes felt jealous that they had such events to look forward to. Universities near UTD such as the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University have active football teams, so it’s very easy for UTD students to feel left out. The heightened school pride and activities during homecoming, accompanied with a possible football rivalry, is the kind of fun that will not only raise school spirit and unite the student body but also attract alumni to visit and join in the campus festivities as well.

Whether we like it or not, college football has become a major part of the college experience. Most students don’t spend all of their time attending classes and studying. It’s not unreasonable for students to want to attend a school that can offer them both. According to a study by Harvard Business School assistant professor Doug Chung, schools typically experience a 17.7 percent jump in applications after a successful football season. Another study by Devin and Jaren Pope found that after a school achieves certain sport successes, the quantity of applications increases from 2 percent to 8 percent. A football program would help the university gain a better reputation and give prospective students the opportunity to participate in the typical college experience.

A common argument is that a football program at a nerdy school like UTD wouldn’t fit the general campus vibe. But who says nerds can’t enjoy football? MIT, Stanford, Yale and even Rice are well-known “nerd” schools with football programs, some of which have been wildly successful. Another debate is that because UTD has a large commuter population, the school would be wasting its time implementing a football program. However, if anything, a football program would create more of an incentive for commuters to stay longer on campus to partake in the pre-game activities and watch the game with their friends or family. The football team may not experience a large or immediate success, but it certainly has the potential to improve the campus atmosphere.

One of the biggest concerns with having a football team is its associated cost, which is valid, as implementing a football program is not cheap. Starting a college football team can run anywhere from $1.5 million for a small, Division III program to over $80 million for a Division I program, according to USA Today. However, such a cost is offset by the potential to improve campus identity, generate income and increase the local and national exposure of the university.

UT San Antonio, a university with a similar enrollment as UTD that is also located in a major city, administered a vote in 2007 in which a majority of students approved to increase the student athletic fee from $120 per semester to a maximum of $240 a semester to fund an initiative to establish a football program, including the construction of an $84 million stadium. In comparison, UTD’s current student athletics fee is $45. Additionally, UT San Antonio also launched a $15 million fundraiser to support salaries, construction and scholarships associated with the establishment of the football program. The school is now reaping the benefits of its investment as the eight-year-old football program has been awarded the title of college football’s best startup by USA Today, with an average home attendance of 17,348. The university also reported increased national exposure from televised games as well as increased alumni donations following the creation of the program.

UTD has always been a school that places more emphasis on academics than sports, and the implementation of a Division II or III football team won’t suddenly change that. While we may not be able to uphold our “undefeated football team” status much longer, we would gain more opportunities to make our school a more fun and active campus and allow students the chance to enjoy all that makes up the traditional college experience.