It’s a Saturday morning in the fall. I roll out of bed, grab something to eat and meet some friends near Nickerson Field. I toss a football around, and maybe grill up some hamburgers and hot dogs outside the gate. The team might not be great, but we all still want to go to the games, right? I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And then, I wake up.
Boston University’s football team was established in 1884. 1884! That would make it the 19th oldest football program in the nation (tied with Lehigh University), if the school still had a team. The Terriers played at Nickerson Field as part of the Yankee Conference in NCAA Division I-AA football. Between 1980-93, the team won five conference championships, including an undefeated season in 1993. But just four years after that (admittedly after a 2-25 record from 1995-97) the team was cut by the university.
The Boston University football team was a financial casualty. Due to Title IX, which passed in 1972, schools that receive federal funding needed to provide equal opportunities to play sports to both men and women. In short, schools needed to make some tough decisions. If the school had a men’s basketball team but not a women’s team, then they had to start one. Without some serious extra financial support, that means cutting another sport.
It’s not as though Boston University wasn’t in compliance with Title IX. However, the university saw a need to redistribute the money given to sports programs. An article from the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME) in October 1997 states: “Funds for women’s sports will be increased by $500,000 and 23 scholarships will be added by 1998-99.” The article goes on to state that the extra money would go towards a new athletic facility. Basically, the school decided to take a sport that it had been playing for more than a century, and axed it. They couldn’t have gotten rid of a different sport? Maybe one that didn’t produce copious amounts of revenue for the school? Can you imagine if they tried to get rid of the hockey program?
Most of my close friends from high school are attending colleges that have major football programs. I’ve asked some of them if they enjoy it, and they’ve responded with a resounding, unanimous YES. It’s really not about the quality of the team or the quality of the opponent. Of course, it does help if your school’s team is fantastic. But it’s more about the atmosphere of a football game than it is about the quality of the football itself. In my humble opinion, sitting in the parking lot, tailgating and eventually taking in a game of football are three of the highest pleasures known to man.
Now, you can always do that at a New England Patriots game, if you feel like spending an average of $117.84 per ticket (according to ESPN.com). Now maybe this is just me, but on a student budget, that’s not really a responsible expenditure. I’d rather go see a football game that’s free to students and has a rabid student section cheering the team on.
Would it be possible to bring back Boston University’s football team? Is it a good idea? On the surface, it’s difficult to justify. According to journalist James Joyner, who runs the well-known blog “Outside the Beltway,” the extinction of Boston University’s football program led to a $285 million increase in money that the school could use on other sports and facilities in the 12 years following the decision to end football. In fact, most of the budget for the construction of the Fitness and Recreation Center came from this chunk of change.
Despite the financial implications of bringing back the BU football team, it definitely could be done. Football is by far the most profitable college sport, much like it is the most profitable professional sport. The revenue that a football team could potentially generate far eclipses the costs of resurrecting the program. Another sport would most likely have to be cut; that’s just an ugly truth. Some tough decisions would have to be made, based on finances.
But wouldn’t it be worth it? Boston University has a football tradition dating back more than a century. The arena on campus, after all, is named after the most famous BU football player, Harry Agganis. Agganis went on to play for the Boston Red Sox (oh yeah, he was great at baseball, too) before dying of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 26. But I don’t think naming rights to an arena is a good enough remembrance of the BU football program. I think that it should be resurrected. Saturdays during the fall should contain maybe a little bit of homework, and a lot of college football. And I’d like to see my school, Boston University, play against the best that the nation has to offer.