From the Bristol Herald Courier
JOHNSON CITY -- The 2003 season will be the last for football at East Tennessee State, university President Paul Stanton said Friday.
"Yes, (football) is being dropped," he said, citing financial woes. "I can't think of anything right now that would change that opinion other than if donors could come forward with a pledge to raise $2 million a year."
Stanton said he began worrying about the financial losses attributed to the football program about five years ago and that the university loses $1 million per year because of the sport.
Beginning in 1999, ETSU tried to raise $100,000 a year for a total of eight years -- money to be used strictly for football. After five years, Stanton said, the school raised $127,000.
The possibility of receiving $2 million per year in donations was not a realistic solution, Stanton said.
"We just can't do all the things we used to do," he said. "We can't continue to lose money on something that is correctable, and I can't expect to get $2 million per year in donations.
"We put $1.4 million into football every year and we lose $1 million."
Besides the $1 million in losses due to football, Stanton said the university would have to put even more money into the program -- $300,000 to $400,000 -- to keep pace with the other schools in the Southern Conference.
In addition, ETSU's Memorial Center needs a new artificial playing surface, which would cost about $1.5 million.
A third challenge deals with the NCAA's Title IX gender equity federal law. Under the law, the percentage of male and female scholarships has to equal the student body's male-to-female ratio.
Because ETSU's campus is 60 percent female, Stanton said, meeting the NCAA requirements would cost another $400,000 if the university decided to keep football.
"If you look at the number of scholarships that football has -- 63 male scholarships -- then we need about 60 more female scholarships," Stanton said.
He also said that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission ruled that by 2007 all state dollars going to the athletic department will be phased out, as will all student dollars that have gone to athletics.
Stanton said collegiate athletics will have to be supported by donor dollars and new-student dollars intended specifically for athletics.
"To do it on the students' back would equate to $400 per student per year above and beyond whatever the tuition rate," he said.
In addition to the budget crunch on athletics, Stanton said the state's budget woes have meant that 31 university employees have been notified they may lose their jobs.
Dropping football may provide an alternative to losing those employees, he said.
"If you add up all 31 of those salaries of those positions, you are looking at $900,000, so we're losing more in football than in salaries to keep those people," Stanton said.
ETSU will honor the scholarships and contracts of the athletes and coaches signed on to compete for the Buccaneers in the fall, he said. After the fall season, the university will help those athletes that need to find other programs.
"We will by moral, ethical and legal standards have to take care of those students on scholarship and coaches under contract.
"In essence, this fall will be the last season we will play. We will be working between now and the end of December to help athletes find other programs."
Stanton said the elimination of football would allow more money to be spent on some of the other sports that have been successful in recent years.
The ETSU men's basketball team won the Southern Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last March. The Buccaneers lost the first-round game to Wake Forest.
"We can concentrate more on basketball, tennis, golf and bring in more support for those sports," Stanton said. "The softball team is already bringing in more donor support than the football program.
"There is no way I'd be eliminating (football) if we could support it, but we can't support it. It's a sport even our alumni, for whatever reason, do not put any money into.
"We've tried pretty hard the last four years to raise money, and they are putting it into other sports, just not football."
firstname.lastname@example.org | (276) 669-2181