ETSU students see positives of new football program
Wednesday, April 4, 2007


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 4, 2007) - With a student referendum vote approaching April 10th and 11th, ETSU students are preparing to either support or oppose the increased student athletic fee that will help fund operations for a new football program.


Some students, however, are already prepared to vote.


"I am voting yes regardless," said Amber Keesecker, a member of Buc Wild. "That is a small price to pay when you look at other university athletic fees. I think more students will choose to enroll at ETSU if we get a football program, and they won't think twice about the athletic fee."


ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton, Jr., made the decision to re-establish a varsity, scholarship football program at the end of December 2006. Following the decision, a funding plan was proposed that included community donations, private fundraising, ticket sales, merchandise, and most importantly, an increased student athletic fee.


The current student athletic fee is $75 per semester. However, with the proposed fee increase, students will be asked to pay an additional $50 per semester starting in 2007. The new fee for football would not exceed $100 per semester, and the overall athletic fee would not exceed $175 per semester.


Even when the fee reaches $175 a semester ($350 a year) in 2009-10, it still would not be as much as the current student athletic fees at peer institutions in the Southeast today, including Appalachian State ($498 a year), Western Carolina ($470 a year) and UNC Greensboro ($403 a year). In fact, Middle Tennessee State and Memphis are planning right now to impose an additional fee of $100 next year, without requesting a vote of students.


            "Tuition and student fees are low around here anyway," said Orrin Carr, a Criminal Justice major. "An additional $50 would really be nothing."         


On April 10-11, students will be encouraged to go online and vote for or against the proposed fee increase.


"I am voting for the return of football because football is an important aspect of the college experience," said Stephen Linebarger, a member of Buc Wild and the son of Bill Linebarger, a former ETSU football player. "It gives students the opportunity to get out of the dorms and go out and do something."


ETSU has a headcount of approximately 11,846 students, a number that continues to show substantial growth. If the new football program were to return, supporters of football say the university could very well see a larger increase in student enrollment.


"I definitely think the football program will bring in more students," said Megan Parker, a Nursing major. "Most people don't understand why you would even go to a college that doesn't have football. If the administration chooses to bring it back, I feel that both the university as well as the community will soon understand and appreciate the importance of this sport at ETSU."


But if the program intends on being successful, it will need a broad base of support from many constituents, including students, alumni, administration, faculty, staff, community and fans.


"To have a successful program, you have to have student support and how do you expect to get their support if you don't make it seem as though they are appreciated," Linebarger said. "Students need to feel involved in the game; they need to actively participate in the atmosphere of the game. After all, it is their student fees that will be helping to fund the program."


The new plan for football calls for a outdoor stadium that will give fans a better football atmosphere than the one previously provided by Memorial Center.


"The atmosphere of the Dome was a pretty big factor in why football had a lack of support," Linebarger said. "Football is meant to be played outdoors."


Hopefully, with the essential provisions underway, the new program will be appealing to the students and provide them an outlet to the rigors of their weekly class schedules.


"I know that we are in school to get an education and I really value that, but if all we did was study and go to class, I think a lot of us would get burned out," Keesecker said. "That's why it is important to get involved on campus and support our athletic teams. Athletics and student involvement on campus makes the whole college experience even more rewarding than it already is."