A couple of weeks ago, ETSU traveled to Knoxville to take on the University of Tennessee in a football game, the first showdown between the schools in football. It wasn’t a great show from ETSU as we lost 59 to 3. That was about what was expected of us, a relatively small university a division down from UT, but what if it wasn’t? Could ETSU ever beat an SEC school like UT?

Well, in case you’ve got somewhere to be as you’re reading this, the brief answer is no, probably not. Why is that, and would we want to be that big anyway?

There are many advantages to being a bigger university. The most obvious one is money. With more students comes more tuition money filtering into the university, which would allow us, in turn, to spend more money on better facilities, programs and faculty pay raise. More funding means ETSU could offer more to its students. There are plenty of programs ETSU lacks because of short funding, and that’s the case in several departments, but some majors don’t exist at ETSU. Example: UT has an engineering program, whereas ETSU does not.

In addition, a larger university would allocate more money toward its athletics. By pushing tens of thousands of dollars into student scholarship programs for athletes, there’s a pro for student-athletes, but –– and for the university as a whole –– millions would be spent on stadiums and athletic facilities, which could draw more attention to ETSU and our fans.

This is the most public difference between larger schools like UT and smaller ones like ETSU. The reason so many people are fans and supporters of big schools like UT is due to their sports. For instance, I grew up a die-hard UT fan, and that has nothing to do with their extensive biology program or their well-regarded architecture department.

Unfortunately, ETSU just doesn’t seem like it can reach SEC level, at least not anytime soon. The biggest difference may surprise you a bit, but age contributes to a school’s popularity and size too. UT was founded in 1794 and became a university in 1840. ETSU, on the other hand, was founded in 1911 and didn’t become a university until 1963. To put that in perspective, my grandmother was graduating ETSU ten years after it became a university. Ten years after UT became a university, Abraham Lincoln was starting his political career, and Johnson City had yet to be founded.

My point is that the University of Tennessee and other big schools in this country have had a very long time to become the institutions they are today. We may not be as large as UT or have as much money, but ETSU is still a very good and well-respected school with some fantastic programs and majors.

I did not come here because I didn’t get into UT (I didn’t apply because I didn’t want to write the essay), I came here because it was a great school with professors I liked and respected, and ETSU was not a massive university. ETSU may become a SEC-level school many years down the road, but honestly, I like ETSU the way it is today –– affordable, comfortable and still growing.