Face-off: Should Grace Get a Football Program?
This is for discussion purposes only in light of the Super Bowl last Sunday. Grace College is not currently considering starting a football program.
YES – Why not?
First off, football is king in America. The Super Bowl, after all, is the most-watched game on television and arguably the biggest sporting event in the world.
Not only is football popular throughout the States, but a football program would also align perfectly with the direction Grace College is heading. Grace is starting the new three-year program where they hope to become a larger campus. They want new dorms and more buildings for classes.
Football will help supply the kids and therefore fill the dorms, bringing in approximately 100 extra athletes. These 100 athletes, by the way, won’t be receiving full rides. The available scholarships will attract them to the school, but Grace will still make money off of tuition.
And believe me, even though this is basketball country, it’s not going to be difficult to find football players in our football-saturated region. Recruiting is the easiest part. Fort Wayne is considered by many to be one of the best high school football cities in the state. North of Indiana, we’ve got Michigan, one of the most prestigious football states because of the University of Michigan. And to the right, we’ve got Ohio. Sure, it may be one of the most boring states in the Union, but it’s an amazing football state. And lastly, we’ve got Pennsylvania relatively close, home of the greatest NFL franchise ever. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Six to four, Green Bay.)
Starting a football program would also help Grace in the long run because of the facilities it needs. Let’s face it: the Gordon Rec. Center can be a headache because of all of the athletic teams that need to practice combined with students who want to utilize it.
So, say we got a football field, football complex or a field house. Not only does that help football, but it helps all athletic programs because Grace would get a new weight room, maybe a track (which means more track and field athletes, which means more money for Grace) and more room for conditioning. A football team would consequently benefit all other Grace athletic program.
In comparison to all other divisions, building an NAIA football program is very similar financially. According to the NAIA, the cost is close to the same with NCAA Division I, II and III programs. NCAA Division II institutions (the closest comparison to NAIA) spend an average of 3.5 million dollars on athletics without football programs and 4 million with football programs.
NAIA programs, on average, cost around 1.5 million without football and around 2.5 million with football. While the NAIA is still around, and, dare I say it, while Grace is still part of the NAIA, Lancer athletics should take advantage of being an NAIA school.
Lastly, a football program (if run well) makes more money than it spends. It would rake in more tuition, create an excitement on campus and improve athletic facilities.
By Michael Blevins
NO – Grace College football: undefeated since1948.
What most students do not realize is that up until now, what is often only seen on a t-shirt for kicks actually has a reason behind it.
Would it not be exciting to tailgate at Grace football games in the fall? Absolutely.
But let us eliminate the “cool factor” for a minute. What really goes into having a football program, and exactly how realistic is a stadium full of towel-waving Lancer football fans?
After throwing in costs of a new stadium, practice field, coaching salaries, player scholarships, and a host of other fees, expenses, and equipment, it becomes clear that this is no small paycheck. Still, the expenses go beyond startup costs.
In fact, the cost of running an average institution’s football program in the NAIA is $1,277,792, a tab that a small school should not be messing with. It certainly wouldn’t be money well-spent—not right now.
Instead, Grace could buy an outdoor track. It could get lights for Miller Field. Or it could build an indoor practice facility for baseball, softball, tennis and soccer teams.
If, however, Grace were to get a football team, it would only be the first task of a difficult phase-in process. Because there is no football in the MCC (only three teams), Grace would be slated to join the Mid-States Football Association. Of the eight teams Grace would face, the average distance between the schools is 144 miles (compared to 62 miles within the MCC), significantly complicating travel plans and expenses.
It is easy to see that Grace does not currently have the facilities to have a football team. Are 100 football players going to be able to use the Gordon Student Recreation Center as a weight room? No. And how many top recruits are going to come play when practices or games might have to be held at Lakeview Middle School until a stadium is finished?
Yet the creation of a football team goes beyond athletics. Not only would Grace be adding over 100 athletes, but they would be adding over 100 students—students who would need a new dormitory, more parking and possibly even bigger dining commons. When Marian University started to explore the possibilities of a football program, it was only after a 40 percent growth in five years that enabled them to.
What it boils down to is a classic case of want versus need. In the NAIA, only 92 out of 290 schools have football teams. Sure, having a football team might create a “buzz” on campus that could lead to some students wanting to come to Grace, but there is far more hanging on this decision than a slight increase of enrollment.
Don’t look forward to grilling hot dogs before any Lancer football games just yet. Before any program could ever be created, the administration of Grace College would have to make a huge financial commitment, and one they should put on hold.
Perhaps Grace football should stay undefeated for awhile longer.
By Zane Gard
These stories were published in the February 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.