“Yes,” exclaimed Student Government Association President Iqra Ahmad, as she rose in excitement and embraced Vice President Leah Tilson.
Many senators rose to their feet and clapped at the outcome, while others stayed seated in disappointment.
Ahmad and Tilson had co-sponsored a resolution to show the SGA’s support in the university moving forward with restarting the football program. The senate passed the resolution Tuesday night with a vote of 22-5 with one abstention.
ETSU President Brian Noland spoke passionately to SGA about bringing back the football program.
“Without football, we are what we are,” Noland said. “Without football, we could go down.”
“Some have asked why we [the ETSU population] have not taken this [football] to a vote,” Noland said. “If we were to have taken this to a vote, it would have undermined our confidence in the SGA, because the shared governance process of this university runs through this organization [the SGA], the faculty senate and the staff senate.”
Noland asked students to look into the future and consider what they wanted their legacy to be at ETSU.
“Since I graduated in 1992, and since football has gone away, homecoming is drastically different,” said Ken Bailey, ETSU alum and member of the 125 committee. “You don’t see many alums on campus. There used to be the luncheon under the tent sponsored by the Alumni Association out where the amphitheatre is. There would be 5-, 6- or 7,000 alums and students at a football game.”
The resolution, SSR 13-015, indicates that a $125 per semester increase in student fees will be the source of funding for the football team.
“Our total athletic budget is about? $12.5 million,” Noland said.
“The fee increase that’s being discussed here would provide sufficient revenue not only for a football team, but for all Title IX associated costs.”
The fees approved by the SGA Tuesday night will bring ETSU’s athletic fees to the level of that at the University of Memphis, Noland said.
The SGA Constitution limits discussion of all resolutions to 30 minutes. If a senator has not called for a vote at the end of 30 minutes, the resolution dies for lack of action.
Within 73 seconds of time running out, Barker wrote an amendment to the resolution that granted the senate an additional 30 minutes of discussion time for senators to make their decisions.
Senators Elizabeth Triplet, Chrys Barker, Jayke Hamill, Napoleon Rivera, Dayena Dabner, Molly Crabtree, Elizabeth Elrod, and Brandon Johnson expressed their personal feelings about bringing the football program back to ETSU.
Triplet said that she was concerned about the students’ opinions on this matter.
“We took a poll,” Triplet said. “We had a total of 438 students, with three faculty members polled in this, and there were 382 that were in favor of football. We did note that there would be a fee added to their tuition, and 56 were against it.”
“Football is the deal,” Crabtree said. “Football is what we go to homecoming for.”
Some senators felt that the lack of a football team hurts the admissions process, while others don’t believe that football is the answer to student engagement.
“As I made this place my home, the only thing that ever felt like it was missing from this campus was school spirit,” Sen. Katherine Starrett said. “As an Admissions Ambassador, I’ve seen an unfathomable number of students lose interest in the place we all call home because of the answers to their questions about the lack of a football program.”
Hamill doesn’t think that spending $2 million on a football program is the answer to student engagement, he said.
“I think that academics has actually flourished without a football team and will continue to do so,” Hamill said.
“If we’re going to put more faith in anything, it should be our own academics because that’s what’s going to make us excel as an institution.”
President Emeritus Dr. Paul Stanton pulled the plug on the old football program in 2003 because of financial reasons. A university-wide vote yielded a majority against bringing back the program in 2007. Of the 3,229 votes cast, 1,907 students were opposed to the $125 fee increase per semester needed to bring the program back.
With the support of the SGA, the university will now take the idea to the Tennessee Board of Regents for approval.