BY MIA GALLO
As the university’s football team maintains continued success this season with an overall record of seven wins and three losses, the following question arises: Can the university handle evolving into a sports school?
Attendance at football games has been steadily increasing this year with the most recent game on Nov. 12 garnering 16,534 spectators, filling approximately 75% of the stadium. However, it is unclear whether this is due to the Blue Hens’ recent triumphs or new programs incentivizing student presence, such as the Cockpit Henergy Challenge, which enters university students who attend every home game in a raffle to win a $10,000 aid reward.
According to Delaware Online, the football team is looking at the possibility of joining the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). If this happens, an increase in attendance at games may occur. However, the current infrastructure in place on South College Avenue may not lend itself to such an influx of patrons.
The FBS would allow the Blue Hens to compete against steeper competition and would likely bring more notoriety to the program. This move could easily draw dedicated fans of their weekly competitors to make the trek to Newark to root for their favorite team.
Delaware Stadium can only hold 22,000 fans in comparison to that of the closest Big Ten school, the University of Maryland’s Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium’s capacity limit of 54,000. This stark difference in allowed capacity at these respective stadiums shows just how unprepared the university would be to morph into a “football school.”
The university’s undergraduate enrollment currently stands at 18,618 students. If the football team’s success and possible conference switch lead more students and people in general to attend games and tailgates, the few measly bleachers siphoned off for students likely could not withhold an inpouring of student attendance.
Looking at the current capacity numbers, the stadium could not even hold an extra 35% of the student body attending a game, so how do they expect to make the switch to the FBS which could possibly increase attendance exponentially?
How does the university presume they are going to become a more sports-centric institution if the current framework could not contain such a large percentage of the student population?
If the growth of the football program is one of the university’s priorities then they must reevaluate not only the way this will likely cause an overflow of the stadium, but the effect it could have on the admissions process.
This is where “The Flutie Effect,” named after former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie, could come into play.
In the two years after Flutie threw a climactic game-winning touchdown pass in a 1984 game, Boston College’s applications increased by 30%. Since this phenomenon was named and studied, experts have found this link between successful athletics and application increases to be evident at universities across the nation.
As the university just admitted its largest freshman class to date, totaling 4,632 students, an increase in applications could pose a very large problem as the institution is already having to place freshmen in housing typically allocated for upperclassmen.
There is no doubt that more recognition and continued success for the university’s athletic program could be a positive advancement for the university but it must be incredibly conscious of handling this switch as it could have dire consequences on the town of Newark and the school as a whole.
The Review’s editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Mia Gallo, executive editor. She may be reached at email@example.com.