College Football Ranks grows By Four Two To 775
IRVING, Texas (July 23, 2019) - The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today that four college football teams will take the field for the first time this season. Including the seven other colleges and universities that will take the field in the coming seasons, the number of schools among all NCAA divisions, the NAIA and independents offering football currently stands at 775. Since 1978 when the NCAA changed its method for tracking attendance figures, the number of schools playing NCAA football (FBS, FCS, DII and DIII) has steadily increased by 188 schools from 484 in 1978 to 669 in 2018. Adding NAIA and independent schools playing football and schools launching programs in the coming years, there are now 775 colleges and universities offering students an opportunity to play college football.
In the past six seasons alone (2013-18), 37 football programs have been added by NCAA or NAIA institutions. Only 14 football programs have been dropped during the same span, including two at schools that closed, three at schools that dropped all or most of their athletics programs and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which returned to the gridiron in 2017. All 775 schools that offer football will be represented on the three-story helmet wall at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Universities and colleges are adding football at all levels, and administrators have developed sound plans, ensuring the new programs address the unique financial, academic and long-term objectives of their respective schools. The 80 institutions listed below that have implemented firm plans during the past decade create a clear and undeniable trend that presidents and trustees nationwide see the value of a football program as part of their overall academic mission.
"No other sport contributes more to the vibrancy of a college campus than football, and we are very pleased to highlight those schools that have added our great game," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "University and college presidents clearly see the value of having programs on their campuses, and we applaud them for understanding the role football can play in the educational experience of all their students."
The rationale for adding football varies at each institution, and all of the decision makers who helped develop a plan for launching a program explain that an in-depth study played a critical role in finding the right level of play and the proper financial balance. Small colleges may cite increasing enrollment and addressing gender imbalances while larger universities might highlight the role of football in raising the institution's profile and its ability to attract research grants. All mention creating a more vibrant on-campus community and connecting with alumni.
"With more than one million high school students playing football and around 80,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion," said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. "Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll."
According to a 2015 study of five small universities published in College Planning & Management by Virginia Wesleyan College President Dr. Scott Miller and former Carlow University (Pa.) President Dr. Marylouise Fennell, adding sports teams and facilities, especially football and marching bands, can fuel an enrollment boost. The study found that each of the five institutions experienced a six-year increase of 26 percent or more, with one school doubling its enrollment during that period.
The schools have added programs at every level of play and in every region of the country, experiencing successes that run the gamut. In all, the 73 programs that have added football from 2008-18 have combined for two national championships, 46 conference titles and 65 postseason appearances.
Four of the seven teams that kicked off their inaugural seasons in 2018 finished with winning records: Indiana Wesleyan, Keiser (FL), Lawrence Tech (MI) and Ottawa-Arizona. In just its second year back after a two-season hiatus, UAB won the Conference USA championship and finished 11-3 after a Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl victory under FWAA Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Bill Clark.
At the FCS level in 2018, East Tennessee State reached the playoffs after winning a share of the conference title for the first time since relaunching its program in 2015. Kennesaw State, which also started its program in 2015, won its second consecutive conference title and reached the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. Incarnate Word (launched in 2009) won its first-ever conference title while fellow Southland Conference foe Lamar (launched in 2010) also reached the FCS Playoffs for the first time. Stetson recorded its first winning season since relaunching its football team in 2013.
At the Division II level, Notre Dame (OH), which launched in 2010, won its conference, recorded a perfect regular season and lost to eventual national champion Valdosta State (GA) in the semifinals of the 2018 playoffs. Also in 2018, Division III Misericordia (PA) completed its first winning season since launching its program in 2012.
These are just some of the impressive achievements at schools that have recently added football. Others include notching impressive attendance figures; attracting increased enrollment; garnering national publicity; expanding their donor bases; and receiving invitations to join conferences at the next level.
The planning and preparation of four football programs will come to fruition as they begin intercollegiate play this fall: Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa; Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire; St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida; and Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia.
The number of football programs across the nation continues to grow, with five additional schools announcing the launch of future teams since last fall: Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina; Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan; Judson University in Elgin, Illinois; Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota; and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida. Including previously announced programs at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and Keystone College in La Plume, Pennsylvania, seven more football teams are set to take the field for the first time between 2020 and 2022.
In August 2018, Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, announced the relaunch of its football program, which had been discontinued in 1951. The Flying Fleet will kick off their inaugural season in 2020 at the NCAA Division II level under head coach Shap Boyd, who, among other stops, previously helped launch the Southeastern University (FL) football team in 2014 as an assistant coach. The small Christian college believes the addition of football supports it institutional mission and will help it expand its reach.