By Rob Sturgis
No matter what athletic division a school is in, starting a football program follows the same general process. Facilities will need to be built, staff to be hired and students to recruit. But some schools do decide to go about the process differently, and the amount of money and time it takes to build a football program appears to deter some small colleges from the idea.
In order to start a football program the school must go through their approval process. This process differs by school.
“Our president thought that adding a football program could be a good way to help our school, so he proposed the idea to the board of trustees and after some discussion the proposal was approved and we began the process to start a team,” said Vince Sinagra, head football coach and associate athletic director at Anna Maria College.
Once a school has decided to start a football program, the next step is to apply for a membership through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The membership is a five-year process, broken up into two steps. The first step begins in the first year called the exploratory year. The second step is the last four years of the process called the provisional/reclassifying step.
For more about how to become a Division 3 member go to http://www.ncaa.org/governance/becoming-division-iii-member?division=d3
For an exact timeline of the process go to http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Calendar%2Bof%2BActivities.pdf
Facilities can be a big obstacle preventing a school from having a football team.
The facilities necessary for a football team include a locker room big enough to fit at least 100 athletes, offices for football coaches, a football field with stands and a press box, as well as practice facilities and a fitness center able to hold the entire football team. This does not even take into account any upgrades to other campus facilities that might be necessary to hold an additional 100 student-athletes such as dormitories, a cafeteria and classrooms.
“We ended football because we do not have a resident hall or a student cafeteria that allows for team meals,” said Charlie Titus, the vice chancellor of athletics and recreation at University of Massachusetts in Boston. “Having the facilities to support a quality football program were and are a challenge.”
While the facilities are being put in place, the school might begin a national search for the program’s first head football coach. The head coach, a key hire, will be in charge of recruiting the athletes as well as hiring all other football coaches. The head coach is the first big move of the program and serves as the face of the football program.
Schools want their head coach to have a philosophy that flows with their own.“We want our kids to represent us in everything they do,” said Sinagra, “Our motto is ‘We may be Division 3 by title but we want to be Division 1 with our facilities and the way we do things as a program’.”
Once that is in place, the school now has to order equipment, including practice and game-day equipment for the field, players and coaches. Then the next step is to start scheduling the season and that involves practices, meetings and workouts as well as actual games and opponents. If the new football team is going to be joining a conference immediately, then the school must work in compliance with that conference for scheduling its games.
The last step is to recruit and bring in the student-athletes who will be enrolling in the school and playing football. The head coach and his football staff conduct recruiting. For Division 3 programs recruiting can be especially difficult. The NCAA does not permit Division 3 schools to give athletic scholarships. This means most Division 3 student athletes will have to pay for their schooling. For more information about athletic scholarships visit http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/how-do-athletics-scholarships-work
For an example of how the University of West Florida, a Division 2 school, planned its football program visit. http://www.goargos.com/page.asp?articleID=6744
For an example of how a Division 1 program, University of South Alabama, planned to start their football program visit. http://www.usajaguars.com/documents/2010/6/30/scheduling_timeline.pdf