Smith talks about the return of football
The shirt isn't irrelevant yet but someone might want to start working on a
new design. You know the one - on the front it reads ETSU Football, on the back
Undefeated since 2003 - showing support for the return of a program that was cut
in 2003 for financial concerns. On Friday, March 29 the Tennessee Board of Regents
voted to approve a increase of $125 in student fees at East Tennessee State
University to help fund the return of football to the university, students, campus and
alumni that make up the ETSU community.
"My initial reaction was that this begins a lot of work on campus," ETSU
President Brian Noland said. "The boards action today presents the opportunity for
us to return to campus an continue the next step in the process."
The next step is more like a never-ending staircase as opposed to one single
step. The most important of the many steps though will be convincing students,
faculty, alumni and the community to support the program. Some students are
against the fee increase stating that they will be paying for something they won't get
to see or be a part of. The community support will be a wait-and-see situation. The
most important factor though could be alumni support, and their donations.
Alumni donations are the backbone of college athletics, check any athletic
department budget across the country and you'll see just how important alumni
being involved and excited about a program can be. ETSU has plenty of alum to
draw from and they seem excited to be a part of the process. Former ETSU
basketball star Mike Smith wishes football had been a part of his college experience
and is excited about the sport returning to his alma mater.
"I think the return of football will have a positive affect on the campus,"
Smith said. "Giving the students a chance to experience college a college football
atmosphere on Saturdays will be huge."
Smith, like many other students, never had the opportunity to experience
football as part of his college career. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey on the other hand
attended ETSU while the team was still around and shares Smith's excitement.
"I'm excited I think it provides identity for our school and something to rally
around for homecoming," Ramsey said. " I think it goes much deeper than just a
football team, it's about personality for the alumni to rally around."
With the return of football to ETSU some have voiced concern over a
administration they feel are focusing on athletics when they should be working to
improve the schools academic footprint. Ramsey and Noland alike believe a football
program will only help shine a brighter light on the universities medical science and
fine arts programs that have flourished in recent years.
"I think it's just the opposite," said Ramsey. "In the end it will actually add to
the academic side by the identity it brings to the school."
With the TBR vote the process has begun but the school is far from fielding a
team, an idea that excites Smith.
"My ideal game day would look like any other college gameday," Smith said.
"BBQ, games, music and cold beer! I know I can't wait to make some games!"
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