The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) says that four new college football teams will take the field for the first time this season, increasing the number of schools among all NCAA divisions, the NAIA and independents offering football to 773, an all-time high.
Since 1978 when the NCAA changed its method for tracking attendance figures, the number of schools playing NCAA football (FBS, FCS, DII and DII) has steadily increased by 179 schools from 484 in 1978 to a record high of 663 in 2014, or an average increase of 4.9 schools per year. With the addition of the NAIA and independent schools playing football and the schools across all levels of play who have announced the addition of programs in the coming years, the number of colleges and universities now offering football has been increased to the all-time high 773. In the past four seasons alone (2011-14), 32 football programs have been added at NCAA, NAIA or independent institutions. All 773 schools will be represented on the helmet wall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Universities and colleges are adding football at all levels, and administrators have developed sound plans, ensuring the new programs address the unique financial, academic and long-term objectives of their respective schools. The 61 institutions listed below, who have implemented firm plans during the past few years, coupled together with the more than 20 schools with exploratory committees, create a clear and undeniable trend that presidents and trustees nationwide see the value of a football program as part of their overall academic mission.
“No other sport contributes more to the vibrancy of a college campus than football, and we are very pleased to highlight those schools that have added our great game,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “University and college presidents clearly see the value of having programs on their campuses, and we applaud them for understanding the role football can play in the educational experience of all their students.”
The rationale for adding football varies at each institution, and all of the decision makers who helped develop a plan for launching a program explain that an in-depth study played a critical role in finding the right level of play and the proper financial balance. Small colleges may cite increasing enrollment and addressing gender imbalances while larger universities might highlight the role of football in raising the institution’s profile and its ability to attract research grants. All mention creating a more vibrant on-campus community and connecting with alumni.
“With more than one million high school students playing football and more than 70,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll.”
Four Programs Launching in 2015
- East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Independent (Subsequently joining Southern Conference in 2016) – President Brian Noland, Athletics Director Richard Sander, Head Coach Carl Torbush.
- Finlandia University (Hancock, Mich.): NCAA Division III, Independent – President Philip Johnson, Athletics Director Chris Salani, Head Coach Tim Driscoll.
- Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Big South Conference – President Daniel S. Papp, Athletics Director Vaughn Williams, Head Coach Brain Bohannon.
- Lyon College (Batesville, Ark.): NAIA, Central States Football League – President Donald Weatherman, Athletics Director Kevin Jenkins, Head Coach Kirk Kelley.