By RILEY DOHERTY
The UMW Athletics Department has no plans to create an official university football program now or in the near future. When thinking about college culture, some things that may come to mind are school pride, mascots and sports. Of those college sports, one of the most popular is football, which according to the NCAA’s 2017 records, had a total national attendance rate of over 47 million people during the 2017 season. The University of Mary Washington is somewhat of an outlier from other universities due to its lack of an official school football program. And this may not change for some time, as Patrick Catullo, interim Director of Athletics stated via email, “UMW does not have any plans to add any new sports, including football.”
Costs are one reason why UMW is not planning on creating a football team, or any new sport, any time soon. An example of the steep costs of a football program comes from the University of Virginia located in Charlottesville. UVA’s Scott Stadium cost around $300,000 to build, which may seem like a strangely cheap price to build a functioning stadium, before it is taken into account that construction on Scott Stadium began in 1930. The estimated rate of inflation saw Scott Stadium’s construction price balloon up to almost 5 million dollars, not including renovations, power, plumbing, etc. and that is just the stadium.
For the most basic protective gear, a quick look at the Dick’s Sporting Goods website shows that football helmets can cost anywhere from 60 to 300 dollars. This is not taking in to account other essential player gear including mouthguards, shoulder, elbow, and knee pads, cleats, jerseys, chin straps and so much more. In addition to player gear, there is also necessary training equipment, transportation and other costs. To sponsor a football program UMW would have to increase tuition prices or other expenses on campus in order to raise enough funds for even the basic necessities.
“I think if they [the UMW Athletics Department] even attempted to create a proper football team, they would be wasting a lot of money that could be going to other projects,” said sophomore Parker Siebenschuh when asked about the creation of a football program.
Dr. Juliette Landphair, Vice President of Student Affairs, gave further insight into the reasoning for UMW lacking a football team. One of the reasons is because of tradition.
“We’ve never had football,” said Landphair. “If you look into the history as a women’s college, we’ve never had a football program.”
Due to Mary Washington originally being a college for women, and the professional level of football being a mostly male sport, there wasn’t much reason to invest in a program. This mindset carried on even after Mary Washington began accepting male applicants in the early 1970s.
“What we saw was a movement into women’s tennis, then men’s tennis and expansion into other sports. But no football,” said Landphair.
When asked if football was even on the radar of the administration, Landphair responded, “I’m sure it was talked about, but our demographics were skewed towards female students. There just weren’t as many men.” Without a lot of male students there was no way for a football program could take off.
Another reason that football has not found a home at UMW is due to Title IX.
“The reason we don’t have football or a men’s volleyball team is Title IX,” said Landphair. “[Title IX] states you have to spend an equal amount of money on both [men and women’s] groups.”
Due to the policy on equal spreading of funds, bringing football or any new sport into the current mix throws everything out of balance.
“If we were to bring in football we would either have to increase the amount of women’s sports or worse remove a men’s sport,” said Landphair.
Dr. Landphair also questioned if football would be a sound investment for the school. “There’s so much more coming out about concussions and the damaging effects of football.” Landphair argued that because of the constantly reemerging stories about the negative effects football has on people young and old, there’s a risk that football could become a dangerous investment if popularity declines.
Although UMW is not planning on creating an official team any time soon, for those interested in football there is always the UMW intramural football team and 7 on 7 club football team.