As noted by a previous article written by Michael Maxwell, the University of Wisconsin Parkside is in the developing stages of creating its first ever football team. The men behind the push for this Club Football team are students T.J. Hearn and Justin Long, as well as Health, Exercise, Science, and Sports Management advisor Curtis Bickham.
The first meeting, held on November 2nd, stressed, to the over forty strong in attendance, that this team will require great efforts both on and off the football field. It also gave a glimpse into why our university had never been able to have a football team, as well as why it will be a club team and not a Division II team like the other athletic programs.
“For almost ten years young men have come into my office and asked, ‘Why don’t we have a football team?’ And I had no idea why we didn’t,” said Curtis Bickham. “I talked with Professor Linda Draft, and she said that the reason we don’t have a football team is because we are out of compliance with Title IX. We have more male sports than female sports, two more male sports than female sports. There is no way we can get another male sport without one of two things happening. Either cut out some of the current sports that we have for our male sports, or trying to add more female sports. Which both would be tough to do. So, because of that reason, we don’t have football, and, until that changes, we won’t have football.”
The compliance with Title IX infers the University of Parkside’s athletic teams that are within the NCAA, as opposed to a club sport such as rugby. Our university’s athletics belong to the Great Lake Valley Conference within Division II of the NCAA. The Great Lakes Valley Conference, for that matter, doesn’t include football as a sport on the basis the colleges within it do not all have football. The GLVC Universities that have football programs include Indianapolis University, Kentucky Wesleyan, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Quincy University, and St. Joseph’s College. With Universities within our own conference having football teams, some of whom still play against each other in their own conference, it does bring up a fair question. Why didn’t Parkside initially have a football team?
“I heard some people say it’s just because of the expense. You know, you have to build a stadium, and then we’re the only Division II team in the state so they would have to travel to Indiana and Minnesota,” said Curtis Bickham. “It’s just more expenses, and it would be more expensive to have a football team here. The thing is though, if you look around the country, there are a lot of programs that are axing their football programs, and a lot of other big programs. It all ties into economics, money, and the recession going on right now. It’s interesting that we’re trying to start a football team now where, in terms of finances, it will cost a lot of money. That’s why, initially, we’re looking into this as a club sport, because, to go to the UW Board of Regents, and then say, ‘We want to start a football team,’ number one they’ll see we’re out of compliance with Title IX, and number two just the matter of money.”
Another area that this team finds itself on the edge of the fence about is the matter of marketing. This team will need a lot to get the wheels going to just get the wheels going. With all the work, and all the scrambling to make it functional, will this team be promoted in a way that establishes a growing attendance within the student community, as well as grow in a way to keep past alumni coming back? An idea behind this team is to send a shockwave into our college community, and get this college feeling much more loose and relaxed through getting awareness into the level of sport we have at hand. There’s hope for a trickle effect. If people go to football games, they’ll start going to soccer games, baseball games, and basketball events on campus. In a way, with all the new construction going on on-campus, this could be a final piece to rally behind establish an identity of what it is to be a Parkside Ranger.
“If club football, or anything thing else, is going to happen that stresses school spirit it has to happen up front,” said Curtis Bickham. “It’s going to be hard to get the focus on juniors and seniors now, because they’re focused on graduating, and they’ve seen the amount of people going to the games, and don’t feel too interested.”
An area that could help bolster this cause could be through the orientation process, and establishing a sense of what Parkside athletics can bring from an overall college experience. As a reporter on behalf of The Ranger News, I attended my first athletic events here at Parkside. I was never too aware about our event schedules, but imagined that those truly interested in digging for that information would find an answer. To provide information like this, and toss out the lighter side of our college through the orientation process, could help something such as the club football team, as well as all other events on campus. It can establish a fan base from freshman orientation, and, year after year, can churn out a new student body that can be both student and fan of the Parkside Rangers.
While marketing is an issue once the team gets set in stone, and off and going, another subject brought up often within the first meeting was the matter of money. “We plan on funding the program with sponsors, fundraisers, donations, and any other ways that the organization can think of later down the line,” said Justin Long, a sophomore student majoring in Sports Management.
There will be equipment needed for the players, as well as addressing the very basic question of where will they play? There are certainly a lot of questions still being circulated, but there was one thing thrown down to those who showed up to the first meeting, and that was they want their athletes to get into strengthening and conditioning this coming January.