What if Skidmore had Football?
Ever wonder what your life would have been like if you went to a big, Division I school? I definitely have. For one thing, my weekends would have been a whole lot different. For me, Friday nights here tend to be quiet, this past weekend’s Big Show aside. I usually just hang out with friends or go see a movie downtown. Saturday afternoons are more of the same. Usually there are competitive pickup basketball games in the afternoon but before then, the most exciting thing I do all day is read The Economist in the library.
This would not be the case at a larger university, where football is king in the fall. Take schools like Clemson, Michigan, or Texas A&M; has anyone seen any of their games recently? I think a million people were in each stadium! Well, let me rephrase that: At least 98.6% of the student body was there, which means that their Saturday afternoon, and for some even their Saturday morning, was sure as hell not spent reading The Economist.
This got me thinking. What if Skidmore had a football team? Could you imagine what Wachenheim Field would look like for a Skidmore football game? Of course, the field would probably need a few upgrades to support larger crowds. But just picture this: Uprights at each end zone, bleachers on both sides of the field, and hundreds of students tailgating in the parking lot on a crisp, October day before the Thoroughbred football team takes the field.
I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up for a moment. Why don’t we have a football team in the first place? As it turns out, we did….for one game. In the aftermath of World War II, Skidmore, which at the time was an all-girls school, temporarily allowed male veterans to enroll, but only as day students. Nonetheless, these men wanted both a college education and an athletic experience like any other college would provide, so they organized a football team and challenged Vassar to a game. Vassar declined, perhaps because they were too afraid to lose; but the Brown school -- not the Ivy, but a prep school for men -- accepted their offer and played to a 0-0 tie in front of approximately 1,500 people.
Assuming Skidmore students do not suddenly decide to create a football team and challenge a nearby school, there are a few reasons why Skidmore does not have a team today. Many of the schools playing on Saturdays not only have had football teams dating back to the early 1900s, but they also did not become co-ed until the middle of the 20th century. Skidmore, in contrast, was an all-girls school for most of its early existence. Since football was not ingrained in the college’s culture, it was not a priority to form a team at the time. The sport is costly. Football teams have by far the largest rosters of any college sport: Division I football programs are allowed nearly seven times as many scholarship spots than track & field and lacrosse, which have the second most. With these larger rosters come high costs in hiring numerous coaching personnel, buying and retaining equipment, and recruiting. While these costs can amount to upwards of $30 million annually for some Division I programs, there is a clear cost to having a football program at the DIII level as well. In 2014, the median difference in athletic expenses per year between schools with football and those without was a little over $1.6 million. In more than a few cases, the difference in costs is even higher.
Unfortunately for all the football fans on campus, I doubt we will even want, let alone have, a football team.