Hearing the roar of fans painted in teal, navy blue and gold on Saturday afternoons brings excitement to our bones. One can only wonder why UNCW lacks the school spirit that a collegiate football program can provide. If a single sport unifies the student body, then why not take immediate action?
According to ESPN, more than 600 universities contain collegiate football, 32 teams are located in North Carolina. So, why doesn’t UNC Wilmington have a football program? Location, finances, and UNCW’s brand image can all contribute to that fact.
The Seahawk, UNCW’s newspaper states, a university requires roughly $50 million dollars to start a collegiate football program. Raising the tuition at UNCW would be one option if a collegiate football program were desired. A charity fund needs to be set up, but the amount donated is only 1/6th of the money UNCW receives annually.
Size is a factor on whether a university contains a collegiate football program; Coastal Carolina located in Conway, South Carolina recently added a collegiate football program and revamped their stadium in 2003. Compared to UNCW, Coastal Carolina has similar faculty/staff to student ratio, location (distance to local beaches and cities), and similar student enrollment. Bottom line, the main difference between UNCW and CCU- school spirit. Does a university with a collegiate football program contain greater school spirit? According to USA Today, school spirit within the student body is greater at a university that contains collegiate football. This sport helps to unify the student body unlike any other collegiate programs at universities.
But, does a football program align with UNCW’s brand image? We believe the answer to that question would be no. UNCW encompasses a laid-back, chill, and relaxed atmosphere. Our image is centered around the hype of Wrightsville Beach, rather than tailgating football games. UNCW’s image is reflected to its audiences as a stress-free university and town, and the idea of joining a mellow student body attracts prospective students. Part of what facilitates UNCW’s relaxed and personable image, is the small class sizes and opportunities for hands-on applied learning. If the university shifted its focus from academics to athletics, the financial strain would likely cause a greater faculty/staff to student ratio. This would affect UNCW’s brand image, as the key ingredient that helps build the brand would not be as strong. Are we willing to give up one of the aspects that differentiates UNCW from its competitors? A part of UNCW that provides an academic advantage to our students for the addition of a collegiate football program, making UNCW similar to other North Carolina universities?
All factors aside, the real question lies with whether students desire a collegiate football program. A good researcher does their homework and we spoke to 10 students to get to the bottom of this matter. A large chunk of the student body opposed having a football team, citing it changed UNCW’s brand image. Of the students surveyed, 65% supported a team, 25% opposed, and 10% was neutral. We did find those who supported a UNCW football program were very passionate. Those students felt football would bring the student populace together. The main sticking points are location and money. However, all obstacles can be reduced if the student population united their efforts. As a UNCW student, is a collegiate football program worth the money? Are you willing to change UNCW’s brand image, evolving UNCW into something more?
-Jonathan Callahan, Erin Fouhy, Julia George, Joseph Hines, and Sarah Suggs