| March 20, 2018

Column: Another Duke of the West

October 6, 2016

Gonzaga is nicknamed the Duke of the West because of the success the Bulldogs have seen in basketball. The school dropped its football program in 1941. During World War II, it was too expensive to run a football program. The Bulldogs have never added it back.

Gonzaga, as a university, has cultivated its reputation as a tight-knit, small community. Idaho is based on a similar, family sort of feel. The University is just large enough to get lost in a crowd, but carry the feel of an overall homey place.

So I can’t help but wonder, would Idaho stand to benefit from dropping the football program?

Before readers get up in arms, let me say — I have no idea if this would work or not. There are pros and cons to both sides.

Now, this choice would come down to money. If the University could still bring in alumni donations without a football program, the choice would be easier to make.

But without the ticket sales, not to mention the huge bump in the Moscow economy from game weekend visitors, it might not be financially feasible.

On the other hand, dropping football would leave approximately 80 scholarships free. Title IX dictates that women’s and men’s sports must be given the same number of scholarships.

This could mean the addition of men’s soccer, men’s swimming or baseball. With a men’s soccer team of 30 members, this still leaves 50 scholarships dedicated men’s sports.

Leftover scholarships mean athletes without, could be offered a half or full ride for school. I’ve never been through the college recruitment process for athletics, but I’m sure offering athletes a substantial scholarship could sway them toward Idaho. Maybe more scholarship money is the selling point needed to grow the popularity of athletics at Idaho.

Not to mention, if the football budget was divided among existing teams, they could have a larger budget for travel, gear and staff. The football program brings in plenty of money, but it also requires a few pretty pennies to be operational.

Currently, the women’s soccer and women’s basketball teams play at a high level. In the past four years, the Idaho women’s basketball team has taken three trips to the NCAA Tournament.The Kibbie Dome could become a soccer stadium in the fall with a similar set-up to basketball during the winter. With over 1,000 attendees at the women’s soccer game on Aug. 26, there is money to be made in ticket sales for soccer. Adding a men’s team would mean double the ticket sales.

With the addition of the Idaho Arena for basketball, it seems like a natural fit for basketball to become the new breadwinner of the athletic department.

Between two basketball teams, there are home games twice a week. Both teams have far fewer players than a football team, so it would be much cheaper to fly them to games than a team of almost 100.

As much as I love basketball, the idea of college without football is strange.

This would be a tough choice and I don’t envy those who would make the final call. But if Idaho sees a low level of success in the Big Sky, dropping the football program should be a consideration.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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