Division II football team debate
By Karla Juarez
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020
Despite its identity as a popular Texan sport, TAMIU is devoid of a football program. After all, Texas is the only state with an NFL team named after the people who live in it: the Texans.
Texas A&M International University’s Athletic Department offers most of the major sports one can think of. There’s men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, there’s even a golf team and a cross country team. Nearly every semester, students wonder why TAMIU lacks a football team even though it’s often considered “America’s sport.”
While baseball continues to be called “America’s pastime,” football continues to rise in popularity for the past couple decades. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “From 2000 to 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of kids aged 7 to 17 playing baseball fell 24 percent, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Despite growing concerns about the long-term effects of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has soared 21 percent over the same time span, while ice hockey jumped 38 percent. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, another industry trade group, said baseball participation fell 12.7 percent for the overall population.”
“I don’t know why we don’t have a football team in this University, actually,” TAMIU history major Alan Perez said. “Can you imagine how much more publicity and students we would have if we did?
“A couple of friends of mine didn’t come to TAMIU because they didn’t have a football program here and the university they’re at right now does. A football team has, easily, 30 members. That’s 30 more tuitions coming in.”
In actuality, NCAA football teams include up to 125 players but most do not have that many. Of those 125 players, only a maximum of 85 can receive a scholarship.
Some might believe part of this is due to NCAA Div. II regulations: “Division II institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women (or four for men and six for women).” TAMIU offers six sports for women, though: basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, cross country and golf. Men have one less sport than women at TAMIU.
Even one member of the men’s soccer team agrees a football program could bring in more students.
“I think it’ll make Laredo and the University look more attractive and interesting,” business major Luis Diaz said, as translated from Spanish. “Which means more people will want to visit the city and attend the school.”
Another concern opponents hold in regards to adding a football program is the possible rise in tuition costs. There are precedents where tuition spikes occurred in universities and colleges after adding football to the sports roster.
“The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” is a two-minute video citing that “82 percent of college football programs lose an average of $11 million per year.”
This potential tuition increase creates a reluctance to support such a program, like sophomore biology major Yadixa Teran said.
“No, I wouldn’t be OK with it,” Teran said. “We don’t need a football team at TAMIU and when you actually think about it, most of the students here are from a medium- to low-income household. So most of the students won’t be able to afford a rise in tuition.”
Diaz, however, was adamant that the program is needed for future University growth.
“Because in the end, in my opinion, it’s going to bring in more money,” he said, as translated from Spanish. “I’m OK with paying more tuition for the implementation of a football program because it’s going to improve our university by a lot.”
According to the short “The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” the cause of increasing student debt is attributed to college athletic departments, more specifically, their football programs.
“Schools with strong football programs have increased tuition by as much as 65 percent,” according to Scholorships.com.
“In my honest opinion, the team would just be a waste of money,” Yadixa said. “It’s going to cost millions of dollars to just start the program, and it’ll cost much more to keep it going. They should be more focused on keeping students safe by placing cameras on campus, creating new degree programs and hiring more professors than building a new football team from scratch.”
TAMIU junior criminal justice major Alexa Mendoza said the expenses to build a football program are a lot more than most realize.
“Let’s look at what it’ll take to just start a program.,” Mendoza said. “They’re going to need the equipment. So, shoulder pads, helmets, cleats, uniforms, footballs and—oh, yeah, a stadium. Also, let’s not forget the team members and a new football coach, several actually, because it takes more than one coach to train so many members in a sport as complicated as football.
“Now, will the players be protected by an insurance plan in case they get hurt and will they also be offered scholarships? Because if they are, then where is all of this money going to be coming from? Sure, some of it can be state funded, government funded and even funded by donations, but the school, and in turn its students, are going to have to put in most of the money and that’s money the school could be using for more important things.”
Realistically, despite all the speculation, a football program might be out of TAMIU’s reach for the time being.
“A football program is not in the talks right now,” Athletics Director Griz Zimmerman said.