This semester, I am enrolled in a class taught by Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, called “Higher Education and Athletics.” In it, we are taking up a research project aimed at formulating a cost-benefit analysis of a Binghamton University football team.
Last week, the Editorial Board published a humorous piece deeming the creation of a BU football team ineffectual and counterproductive. Even with its sarcastic tinge, however, it does raise an interesting question. Binghamton, as a university, is undoubtedly on an upward trend. It was recently named the 10th best public college by the Princeton Review. Obviously, BU aspires to surpass that placement. Yet, every public college ranked above it has a football team. So, it begs the question: Would BU benefit from having a football team? The answer, of course, is maybe, but to avoid fence-sitting, I’ll answer with a qualified no.
Let’s review some of the points:
There’s the issue of location. This, fortunately, is the easiest to answer. It isn’t an issue. The untapped former-industrial land in the surrounding community provides abundant space for massive real estate projects. The fact that the stadium wouldn’t be directly situated on campus is undoubtedly a negative, though, considering the already meager attendance rates at on-campus games.
A more pressing issue, perhaps, is reconciling a team with the University mission and vision. Football is, of course, an excellent way the University can build and support an extensive alumni network. However, this wouldn’t ensure total compliance on behalf of alumni. Indeed, BU’s collegiate niche is an affordable, public research university. Many alumni take pride in BU’s lack of a football team as being indicative of the University being “different” or “academically focused.” Considering the allocation of time and resources that would be necessary for a football team, keeping this risk in mind is extremely important.
Speaking of allocation of resources, funding is an obvious road bump. Public colleges have been, in the past five to 10 years, a cyclical story of budgetary constraints. The University could bond out the construction of a stadium like it has done with the new residential communities, but you can’t bond out operating costs and scholarship costs for a football team. This is a clear negative to the balance sheet.
This only begins to skim the surface of the positives and negatives that creating a football team for BU would entail. Other issues could include Title IX gender equity issues, NCAA Division I requirements, conference alignment, academic support for new athletes, recruiting and long-term sustainability.
A more intricate examination of universities that have created a football team over a five- to 10-year span would be necessary in order to put together a more comprehensive, empirical report. Still, on the surface, it seems that the Editorial Board got it right. Neither the Board, nor myself, inevitably, is the first to write on the topic of a BU football team. This is an age-old conundrum. As such, people will continue to consider and write about whether or not Binghamton University should have a football team. As for me, judging by the issues covered and the extensive list of those not yet covered, I’m going with no.