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Florida Gulf Coast looked into football, and it’s really expensive

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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Florida Gulf Coast is a pretty new school, but you may have heard about it recently. The Eagles are the first 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to make the Sweet 16.

That run has put the school on the map for many people who had never heard of it before they filled out their brackets last week. But you know what would really put Florida Gulf Coast on the map? Football!

It's possible to be a major player in NCAA athletics without a football team. Xavier, Marquette and Gonzaga are just three examples of schools that have done just fine on the athletic landscape without a football program. It's just not as fun.

Florida Gulf Coast understands the benefits that a football team can bring to an up-and-coming school, because it flirted with the idea a few years ago. It commissioned and released a study in 2011 on the feasibility of starting up a football program.

And not surprisingly, starting up a Division I football program is really expensive.

The study, which was re-posted this week on the college football Subreddit page, looked at starting a FCS program and found that to build a 15,000-seat stadium, support facilities for the football program and two outdoor practice fields would cost a little less than $90 million. That is just for the facilities. And it doesn't include land acquisition. The report says an additional indoor practice facility, and two expansions of the stadium to 20,000 seats and then to 30,000 would cost $143,975,859. Just a rough estimate, of course.

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To put that into some context, FGCU's football-less athletics budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year was expected to rise from $7.1 million to $9.4 million. That's for all sports. But, in the world of college athletics, football still rules and a school like FGCU had to look into the possibility.

Also, the report says it is optimal to hire 10 full-time administrative personnel if it adds football, including another full-time trainer, ticket manager and football secretary, and nine full-time and two part-time coaching positions. In addition, the study recommends adding two or three women's sports with seven coaching positions to remain Title IX compliant. Those 28 new jobs, and the cost of the sports themselves like equipment and travel, is on top of the $90-$144 million for football facilities alone. The study estimates the annual overall of scholarships, compensation and operations for football and the additional women's sports would reach $5.9 million annually by the school's third football season.

But again, football is football.

"If FGCU adds FCS Football, it will immediately achieve a new level of institutional profile," the report says.

Football is also the biggest potential revenue generator. Forbes said that FGCU generated only $60,000 in profit from men's basketball last year, and that was second-most among Atlantic Sun Conference basketball teams. FGCU men's basketball was operating in the red until 2010-11. The profits have increased rapidly, the story said, and should continue to after the NCAA success last week, but football is usually a bigger draw.

Money is not the only area the study (which is a fascinating read if you've ever wondered what would go into building a Division I football program from scratch) gets in to. Title IX compliance and finding conference affiliation (the Southern Conference just lost Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, and that's one of the three recommended conferences for FGCU along with the MEAC and Big South) are two other major subjects in the 190-page report.

At the time the study came out, school president Wilson Bradshaw admitted to the local NBC affiliate that it would be difficult for a school of FGCU's size to pick up those costs, and the Eagle News student newspaper recently updated that the idea of football at the school still seems unfeasible. Even if the school decided to build a football program at some point it would be a while before Florida Gulf Coast played a game, as the report recommends a timeline of not starting play until year four.

The school has done a remarkable job with its basketball program, considering FGCU started in 1997, so if it ever takes the football plunge it has a blueprint on how to build correctly. But if FGCU ever wants to build that football program, it's going to cost a tremendous amount of money.

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