Brett Loftis, Garrett Stafford and Conner Jelley
It is a hot Saturday afternoon somewhere in the southeast United States. There are warm grills, cold beverages and large tents covering patches of land. Children are playing with their friends, students are talking amongst one another and parents are discussing how well the recruiting class has been performing. Where is this majestical place? This is at a college football game.
What if Piedmont College could host this type of environment?
“From a financial standpoint, many programs would see a decrease in their overall budget for the year. Some might see more of a decrease than others, but that would be necessary to compensate for the budget that would go into having a football program,” said Piedmont College Athletic Director Jim Peeples. “To start a football program would take a decent amount of money when it comes to building the stadium, all the gear, and then hiring coaches for the team.”
Why does Piedmont not have a football team already? Because college football programs cost a lot of money to start up, maintain and compete for wins. Also considering the pandemic, Piedmont College, like every other institution, lost revenue during the 2019-2020 school year. According to the 2020 Piedmont President’s Report, Piedmont lost $5.5 million in revenue in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. However, Piedmont has still been able to generate money. According to the same report, Piedmont College generated $43 million in revenue during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Furthermore, if Piedmont was able to add a football team, this would attract more students to the institution. As a result, Piedmont would be able to bring more money in from tuition. According to the same 2020 Piedmont President’s Report, the majority of revenue that was generated in 2019-2020 was from student tuition, which generated $31.4 million.
Does Piedmont have the personnel and facilities to compete with other Division III football programs?
“With our current turf field at the Walker Athletic Complex and without a stadium setting, it would be tough to house a football team with regards to locker rooms and stadium seating capacity for games,” said Assistant Athletic Director of Communications Danielle Percival. “The staffing portion is an entirely different aspect, but knowing the amount of personnel it takes for the game day operations side — three staff members covering athletics communications — gameday operations and facilities wouldn’t cut it.”
The potential biggest disadvantage would be that Piedmont is a smaller institution. With being not as large as other institutions, this limits Piedmont in their land capacity, team personnel and amount of living space for the new students and student-athletes that would arrive on campus.
Is the student population total holding the college back?
Piedmont has 2,400 total students between Demorest undergraduate, Athens undergraduate and graduate students. According to NCSA Sports, the average student population of Division III schools who have a football program is 2,750 students. Therefore, Piedmont has the number of students to help field a team. Additionally, with athletic communications depending so heavily on student workers to help out with athletic events, adding a football program would help create more student jobs on campus as well.
Would students be open to having a football program on campus?
“Bringing in a football team obviously brings in a lot of question marks. There would be some financial hurdles, as well as some personnel hurdles that we as Piedmont would have to jump over,” said sophomore sports communications major Presley Field. “However, as a student worker for athletic communications and a huge football fan myself, I really feel like this could help the student body as a whole. With bringing a football team onto campus, it would really raise the morale of students and give them a reason to stay here on the weekends instead of going home or getting into trouble. A football program would obviously help the college as a whole, but it would benefit the students the most.”
With the addition of a football program, it would not only attract the attention of new and current Piedmont students, but also former Lions as well. The new football team could also give a reason for former Piedmont students and alumni to come back and give back to the institution.
“Going to football games would give me another reason to come back and see my friends who are still on campus,” said Piedmont 2020 alumnus Nathan Blackburn. [DJ3] “Also, I think it would have given me and other students a reason to stay on weekends and not go home.”
At the end of the day, Piedmont College is here for the students and to give them a high-quality education. Although a football program would definitely add to the campus environment, it may not be in the cards now. But over the past decade the college has continued to add sports, most recently swimming last year. So the concept of a Piedmont Lions football team is not out of the realm of possibility.
“Every time we’ve added sports, the campus population has grown, so naturally that would be the case if football was added as well,” said Percival. “I believe Dr. James Mellichamp has successful individuals in place on campus — both within athletics and admissions — to continue to drive the student population up and maintain a strong campus community.”