After rumors and years of deliberation, it’s official. Eastern University will introduce football to its athletic department. In an email from the Office of the President, President Ron Matthews detailed the expansion of EU Athletics.
“We will begin team recruiting efforts for the Fall of 2022 and anticipate competing in the NCAA III MAC conference by Fall 2023,” a statement from the email read. EU also said that they plan to work with Valley Forge Military Academy to use and upgrade their facilities, including the football field and locker rooms.
What does this addition mean for the current Eastern University community? Perhaps the introduction of football at a school with less than 2,000 students will increase enrollment. Football teams are big; the NCAA limits rosters to 110 during the offseason, but teams can have more during the season. This could be advantageous not only for more students to have the opportunity to enroll in college but because more students increases the amount of recognition Eastern would receive. 10 out of 18 institutions in the Middle Atlantic Conferences have varsity football teams. If Eastern were added to that list, it would have the chance to present itself as a powerhouse in the MAC Conferences. With the popularity of college football, Eastern would profit in fame and possibly fortune.
On the contrary, a downside to enrolling more students is the abandonment of one of Eastern’s core selling points: their 10:1 student to faculty ratio. With the addition of not only a football team but students that are more attracted to the school because of the football team, this number might increase to 20:1 or even 30:1. Larger class sizes and less personal attention in those classes could be a result. This would deter students who prefer close professor interaction away from Eastern.
Many students choose Eastern University not only for its small class sizes but also for its small, quaint campus. With the introduction of football and more students, more space will be needed. Parking lots would need to be added to compensate for the influx of recruits and more students, as more students seem to bring their cars to campus every year (and residence parking spots are already fairly limited). Additional housing may need to be provided to compensate for the influx of freshmen, transfers and now new sports members. The campus would go from quaint and connected to larger, busier and possibly louder.
Additionally, although the facilities at Valley Forge are only three minutes away, students will not be able to walk 5 minutes to Olson Field or the gymnasium to see a game. Students that don’t have cars will struggle to be involved with the student experience at football games because the facilities are off campus. The perk of EU’s fields being so central around campus is that there’s immediate access for students on campus. It’s easy for students to go to games and support their school.
President Matthews stated in his email that EU hopes to be “sparking school spirit, more campus events, increased enrollment opportunities, and different experiences for our student body” with the addition of not only football but cheer, dance and the pep band as well. Whether these hopes will be received positively or negatively by Eastern University’s community is unknown, but the university’s mission of faith, reason and justice must remain moving forward. Despite the changes that may happen to Eastern, the school is still rooted in its core values, which should be upheld and represented by students, athletes and faculty alike.
Sources: MAC Sports, Marketplace, NCSA Sports, Office of the President of Eastern University