The last year-and-a-half has seen much talk of the possible introduction of football to Little Rock (LR) Athletics programs’ slate. On July 12, 2017, the university announced its intentions to complete a football feasibility study to investigate the value and challenges that accompany introducing a football program.
LR is no stranger to football, having fielded a team when it was known as Little Rock Junior College. That team, disbanded in 1955, most notably won the Junior College Rose Bowl in 1954.
In the years since football left LR, there’s been on-and-off talk of its return. But, in recent years, the drama around the future of War Memorial Stadium has helped stoke the fire. In Spring 2017, the UA Little Rock Student Government Association (SGA) presented Chancellor Andrew Rogerson and Athletic Director Chasse Conque with a petition signed by 1,000 students who favored a football team.
It’s time to burst the bubble of talks of football at LR. The study, released last July, paints a bleak picture of football’s return to the capital city and the consequences of forcing such a move.
Simply stated, a university facing the financial hardships of UA Little Rock cannot afford to introduce a football program. In 2014, an NCAA study found only 20 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools turn a profit. The rest lost money. This fact, paired with the current troubles facing the university, should be enough to demonstrate the unlikeliness and ultimate mistake of adding a football program.
The actual study backs up this claim. 179 pages in total, it’s a fascinating document which gives the athletic department an excellent blueprint to demonstrate where it’s succeeding and failing. Whether football ever comes to LR or not, the information the study shares has made it worth the private funds used to conduct it (it can be viewed, in its entirety, on lrtrojans.com).
First, the study discusses the struggles the university currently faces in accommodating the needs of its current students, most notably Dining Services, academic services, and the Student Center. The introduction of a football program as well as 30 female student-athletes to remain Title IX compliant would further strain these services. To make the addition of football possible, Dining Services, academic services, and the Student Center would have to be streamlined and improved. Naturally, these improvements will cost money.
Further, the study highlights the need for the construction of more facilities to house a football program, improvements which will cost more money.
The study estimates the financial commitments necessary to create and support a football program (whether it FCS or FBS). To create a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program, the cost of building the facilities needed are estimated between $23.4-39.1 million. The study projects the total expenses over the first four years (from preparation to year two of competition) as $12,410,426.
To add an FBS program, the expenses are even greater. While the estimate for facility construction doesn’t change, the four-year expense estimates are increased to six years as prospective FBS programs must compete for at least two years in the FCS. Total, this six-year expense estimate comes in at $28,690,536.
These estimates suggest a tremendous amount of money will be needed to get a football program started. While any school would blink at these numbers, a school struggling like UA Little Rock must surely shudder.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. The study offers the athletic department, and the university as a whole, an excellent look at its successes and shortcomings. Further, it demonstrates the process the university must follow to add a football program. All students should take the time to peruse the study to understand further the university and the costs of running the institution.
Football might one day return to UA Little Rock but it’s not time now. The bubble must burst. Adding football, considering the current position of UA Little Rock, isn’t feasible.