Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Apr 15, 2007; Section:Opinion; Page Number:2B


Students sacked football with realization of facts

    There have been many football metaphors used to describe last week’s vote by East Tennessee State University students to reject a fee increase to resurrect the school’s gridiron program. Here’s another metaphor, although it’s not exactly football jargon: Unless a wealthy benefactor steps forward with the more than $20 million it would take to revive the program, football is dead and buried at ETSU.

    On Thursday, ETSU President Paul Stanton said he was disappointed with the student vote. The outcome of the vote, however, should not surprise anyone who remembers all the empty seats in Memorial Center on game day.

    Fan apathy (combined with escalating costs to field a team) sacked the football program in 2003. Last week, the student body said it did not want to saddle themselves and future classmates with an athletic fee hike to restore football.

    In truth, students knew little has changed since the school’s final football game against The Citadel. Very few students (or anyone else) attended home games in the last two decades of the program’s existence. Even with a new football stadium, many realized that ETSU’s program could never match the fan enthusiasm found in Knoxville.

    The vote — conducted Tuesday and Wednesday — shows nothing has happened in the last three years to make football a more viable program on campus.

    About 59 percent of the 3,229 students who voted said they were opposed to a $50 per semester fee hike in 2008, and another in 2009. Currently, students pay an athletic fee of $75 per semester. If the referendum had passed, students would have paid $350 per year in athletic fees beginning in fall 2009.

    Stanton believes the outcome of the vote showed students were indicating that they had been taxed enough with large tuition increases in recent years. With all fees included, full-time undergraduate students paid $2,318.50 per semester to attend ETSU in 2006-07.

    True, there were many students who felt enough was enough and voted accordingly. But it is still interesting to note that some students who voted “no” last week would have likely never felt the full impact of the fee hike. Most would have graduated by the time the final increase was implemented in 2009.

    Frankly, some students looked beyond personal economics in making a decision in the matter. Most realized that they really didn’t miss football all that much. Few can profess to ever attending a game or having any fond memories of the program.

    The vote by students sends a strong message: It’s time to let ETSU football rest in peace.