By Rob Sturgis
Adding Division 3 college football to small Division 3 schools is a lot of work and costs a lot of money. But is it worth it? Does it help schools out enough to make up for the fact that the average annual expenses of a Division 3 football team in Massachusetts is $229,292, according to athleticscholarships.com. That does not include the added cost of building athletic facilities. So why do it?
Most Division 3 schools are considered small tuition-driven institutions. Some 46 institutions in Massachusetts take part in Division 3 athletics (6 of which are all-female schools); 20 of those schools have a football program.
For small tuition-driven schools, sports revenue doesn’t bring home the bacon to keep the college running smoothly. In Massachusetts the average total revenue a Division 3 football team brings in is about $231,144, according to athleticscholarships.com. The average total expenses by that same football team is about $229,292. That means on average a Division 3 football team in Massachusetts brings in about $1,852 per year.
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So the question remains the same, why do it?
“There are multiple reasons,” said Charlyn Roberts, athletic director at Nichols College. “Football is a great way to develop pride in a campus.”
Tim Shea, athletic director at Salem State College, which does not have a football program, said “It does hurt not being able to hold a big alumni event (homecoming) in the fall that football allows your school to hold.”
There are also immediate effects like increased male enrollment, and increased total enrollment. “It does help in terms of male enrollment. For small tuition-driven institutions it is a quick way to get 80-100 males to enroll at your school,” said Matthew Burke, athletic director at Mount Ida College.
How Schools Get Revenue
One of the biggest reasons to begin a football program is the revenue that the school gains from the increased enrollment. The actual revenue generated comes through a complicated process involving tuition and financial aid rates, not athletic scholarships. Here are a few rules that have to be followed:
- Division 3 athletics are not permitted to give athletic scholarships to their student athletes.
- Division 3 student-athletes CAN receive need-based financial aid as well as grants. Because of that, most student-athletes don’t pay an entire school bill. Most schools have a financial aid percentage. What the financial aid percentage is is the average percent of financial aid or grant money the school will try to give every student.
- The average recruiting class for a football program is about 30-40 student-athletes every year. A start-up program can recruit about 80-100 students. If and when a school transitions from recruiting a large class versus a smaller one depends on each school and its emphasis on football.
- A school’s revenue from a single year’s football recruiting class is determined by looking at the revenue over a four-year period in conjunction with the school’s retention rate of its students overall.
Those rules get applied to the student-athlete once the college’s financial aid rate is determined. The average tuition cost of Massachusetts Division 3 colleges with football programs is $37,248. The financial aid rate (overall grants and student loans) is then applied to the total tuition cost for the student-athlete.
If you are a new football program that adds 80-100 males to your school’s enrollment, each is paying the tuition bill minus their financial aid. If the college has a 50 percent financial aid rate, the tuition on average is then amounts to $18,624. A school with a new football program and 80 new recruits generates for the college revenue of $1,489,920 per year. And that’s just the first season for a football program.
But as that 80-student recruitment class moves through college, not all of them will finish at that school in the four years. If only 85 percent stay through each year, the school’s retention rate is 85 percent. So of those 80 football players in that first class, some 68 are there in the second year, 58 the third year and 49 in the fourth and final year. And that affects the revenue from those students’ tuition each year.
“Retention is the key to our schools success,” said Ryan Kelly, recruiting coordinator at Anna Maria College, “our athletic programs bring in over 60 percent of our school, so the more of them we can keep here the more money our school and athletic programs can make.”
In year one the school makes $1,489,920 from those 80 recruits, in the second year the school makes $1,266,432 from the remaining 68 , in the third year it makes $1,090,192 from 58, and $912,576 from the 49 seniors. This all adds up for a four-year total of $4,759,120 of revenue off of tuition from that first start-up class. This chart calculates how revenue and retention plays out in a regular recruitment class.
Why Some Schools Don’t Have a Football Program
The schools that don’t have a football program either don’t have the facilities to hold a football team or fear that adding a football team will change the college atmosphere.
“I think football would actually detract from our school,” said Josh MacArthur, the athletic director at Babson University. “We have established a very high quality athletics experience for our student- athletes, and adding a sport with the requirements of football would require me to reduce current level services to our existing student- athletes.”
The fact that a football program, on average, costs $229,292 per year makes it understandable that schools aren’t eager to start a football program. “It’s expensive to have a football program,” said Shea, “and if your school doesn’t need help with male enrollment there really is no point in having it.”
Football’s Effect on Students
Football serves as a recruiting tool especially for those student-athletes that want to keep playing for a few more years after high school.
“I love football and wanted to keep playing and that’s why I went to Norwich (University),” said Ben Garmise, a student at Emerson College, “But at some point you have to realize your education is more important than continuing football so I transferred here.”
There are still 26 schools in Massachusetts that don’t have a football program, those schools find other ways to attract students.
“I go to school here for my education and I know its one of the best schools in the country for what I want to do,” said Dan Youkana, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, “The fact that we have a football team is just something for me to do on my weekends, it doesn’t matter.”
With so many Division 3 colleges in Massachusetts every student-athletes has plenty of options to choose from and every school is different.
“I went to Mount Ida for a year and to me it came down to wanting to play with my brother and going to a school that fit my both financially and socially,” said Tony Tokarz, a former student athlete at Mount Ida College and Worcester State College.
Division 3 football will always be considered small-time football across the country, but for 20 schools in Massachusetts it makes a big impact. whether it is giving student-athletes a chance to continue playing their sport, or helping the school’s bottom line.