Dear ETSU student body,
It’s back. Well, not completely, but the largest obstacle has been cleared in the decade-long struggle of bringing football back to ETSU since the program was disbanded in 2003 by former President Paul Stanton. Stanton disbanded to program because of financial issues.
As most of you know by now, the SGA voted Tuesday to support university President Brian Noland as he moves forward with the process of reinstating the football program to ETSU. The next step in the process comes in March when Noland will take the proposal spearheaded by new Athletic Director Richard Sander to the Tennessee Board of Regents, the body that governs ETSU.
The debate over the issue lasted for more than an hour with the main concern being that the $125 increase in student fees to support the program being too much for some students to afford. Back in 2007, the student body voted down a proposal to bring back football at a cost of $200 per student per semester.
Now that the resolution has passed, the time for arguing over the fee increase has passed as well. As SGA Vice President Leah Tilson said during the discussion, we all pay a CPA fee and a library fee and not every student uses those facilities.
During the discussion many of the student senators claimed that reinstating the football team would somehow damage the academic reputation of ETSU. In all my time following college sports, never have I heard anyone say that Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon etc., have lost academic prowess because their school had a football team.
There were also comments made during the discussion that ETSU football had no significant success stories from its past and therefore nothing to look forward to in the future.
Off the top of my head I can think of two. From 1978-1981 a young man named Mike Smith played linebacker for ETSU, a week and a half ago that same man, although not so young anymore, led the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL to within one game of the Super Bowl. Last time I checked, the NFL was the highest level of competition for football and to coach a team to within 60 minutes of its championship game sounds pretty successful to me.
The second success story to come out of ETSU football was interrupted by the disbanding of the program in 2003 that forced the starting safety for that team to transfer. Gerald Sensabaugh grew up in Kingsport and played high-school football at Dobyns-Bennett. Sensabaugh played two years for ETSU before the program was disbanded. He transferred to North Carolina to finish his college career with the Tar Heels. In 2005, Sensabaugh was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round of the NFL draft. He is now the starting safety for the Dallas Cowboys – you may have heard of them.
A quick Google search will turn up that ETSU has had at least 12 players go on to play in the NFL (the player had to get drafted out of ETSU; players who attended ETSU then transferred were not counted).
There are still plenty of questions surrounding the return of football. Where will they play (the Committee for 125 stipulated to president Noland that if football returned it should not be played in the Mini-Dome)? What conference will the school join since the Atlantic Sun doesn’t support football? Who will the school hire to coach the team (a writer for the Johnson City Press has already started the “Phil Fulmer to ETSU” rumors)? Will the student body come out to support the team?
Assuming TBR approves the addition of the football program, that last question is the biggest concern for me. To those of you who supported the reinstatement of football, your job is far from over. It actually just started. It is going to fall on your shoulders to show the school spirit and excitement that was displayed leading up to the vote over the next year plus as the program begins to rebuild from the ground floor.
It is up to you to attend every fund-raising event you can. It is up to you to come out in mass numbers anytime football is discussed. It is up to you to start attending every ETSU athletic event from this day forward. Fill the student sections at baseball, softball and basketball games this spring. Show potential coaches, players and conferences that they need ETSU.
To those of you who opposed the vote, its time to move on. You claimed so vehemently to love ETSU and that you were opposing the vote to help better the future of the university.
You can still love your university and strive to better its future, but you cannot do those things half the time and then turn around and put down the school for attempting to better itself.
If you so love the school as you claim then you must love it wholeheartedly, from the academics, to the fine arts and yes, the athletic programs.
If you truly love ETSU, then you should learn to love the football team, basketball teams, baseball team, softball team, soccer teams, tennis teams, track and field teams, golf teams, cross-country teams and volleyball team.
Here is your chance to show everybody just how much you really do care about “your school.”
Aaron Hodge
Sports Editor, East Tennessean