It’s no secret that as media rights deals continue to grow in big-time college athletics, the void between the haves (the “Power Five” conferences and Big East) and have nots (everyone else) only continues to widen. As that gap expands, it also means that many schools are left with some tough choices to make when deciding how to allocate financial resources on athletics.
That’s the case nationwide, but on Monday, the faculty at Eastern Michigan University proposed a surprising and relatively unprecedented move: Eliminate FBS football altogether.
Here is an excerpt of a report that was presented by Eastern Michigan faculty member Howard Bunsis, via the Detroit Free Press:
“Culturally and geographically, EMU football will simply never succeed from an attendance and financial standpoint. It is a losing proposition — always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane.”
Simply put, this is a fascinating view of what the “other” side of big-time college sports looks like and the drain that athletics can have on a university. Understand that Eastern Michigan (like so many non-Power Five schools) is not only struggling to pay the bills in athletics, it’s actually charging students to subsidize them. According to Bunsis’ report, each student on campus is currently paying $917 per year to support athletics, which is a ton of money, especially as the price of higher education in general continues to rise.
In terms of what would remain of Eastern Michigan’s athletic department, well, Bunsis hopes to move football down to a lower level and continue competing at the Division I level in all other sports.
“Eastern Michigan should drop Division I football, and join the Horizon League, where football is not required,” the report says. “Alternatively, EMU can still play football, but at the Division II or Division III (non-scholarship) level within the Horizon League, which would save even more resources. The advantage of joining the Horizon League is EMU athletes could still compete at the Division I level in Olympic and other non-revenue sports, but spend much less.”
Again, this is a fascinating story, and speaks in large part to both where we currently are in college athletics and where we could be going in the future.
Regardless of whether Eastern Michigan eliminates FBS football, it is certainly not the last school that will have tough decisions to make going forward.