One of the biggest complaints from sports fans at Rider University is its lack of a football team. Most prospective college students, who are fresh off of the intensity of their high school championship games and Friday Night Lights’ delight, are disappointed that Rider will never provide them with this weekly opportunity for excitement. Which brings up the question: Would Rider benefit from a football team?
No, there is simply no practical reason for Rider to embrace a football program. While a successful program may instill a notion of pride in the student body, climbing to the top of the football mountain would be an expensive process. The immediate ramifications would likely include increased tuition and lesser academic scholarships, as the university would need to direct a large portion of its economic resources to building the program.
Brian Burnsed of the NCAA notes only 20 Division I football programs make money. He writes that those 20 programs make up 16 percent of Division I football. As a Division I school, Rider would likely belong to the 84 percent generating more expense than revenue. Burnsed reports that while the revenue generated at schools with football has increased since 2004, the expenditures have climbed at a faster rate, which likely means football will continue to cost colleges more than it brings in.
Burnsed’s statistics display that not only do few colleges generate more money than football costs, but the rate of expenses are also climbing. Building a program during a time when the price of the sport is increasing is not a good idea. Rider could always take a cheaper route and put a modest amount of money into football to appease students. However, the likeliest scenario would be the eventual demise of the program when money is needed elsewhere. The smartest path to take would be to dump a large amount of money into a top-of-the-line coach, who could then help the school recruit the strongest class possible. In addition, the incoming class would have to all play extremely well and give the university a competitive first season to make Rider an attractive place for more recruits. The recruits would have to become instant fan favorites so Rider could begin marketing and selling merchandise to help offset the costs.
Even if the program were to find immediate success and begin bringing in revenue, it is not necessarily a given that Rider’s campus would be entirely interested in attending games. Yes, there would be a decent number of students who would enjoy going to watch the games, but many others would be angry over the increased tuition and smaller scholarships. This could result in a divide amongst the student body, rather than a pride felt by all.
In the situation in which Rider’s program is not successful because the first class of recruits falters, Rider would find it difficult to bring in stronger players in the future and would likely have to end the program. In that scenario, Rider would have wasted a lot of money.
Sophomore journalism major
Printed in the 02/25/15 issue.