By Aubrie Brooks
What do the students at University of North Georgia want? A football team! When do they want it? Now! Though, from the sound of UNG officials, that call could go unanswered for the foreseeable future.
After a recent pro-pigskin column gained support on the internet, The Nugget set out to interview students in an attempt to see how they felt about the topic.
And most seemed ready for some football.
“I would love it,” said student Amanda Cascio. “…I think it would not only bring in more school spirit, but also a lot of people who would be interested in playing the sport. I just think it would be a good addition.’’
Sophomore Will Garland agreed.
“I absolutely love it,” he said. “I believe it would just bring the student body together a lot more.”
UNG student Thomas Rodgers said Nighthawk football could keep the campus from emptying out over the weekend.
“I know people go to bigger schools to have a great college experience, so a lot of people here are missing out,” he said. “Plus, a lot of people go home on the weekends here. My dorm is entirely empty on weekends so it would be a good incentive for students to stay on campus.”
UNG Executive Director of Communications Sylvia Carson said she’s heard the football buzz, but the school’s plan is to stay on the sidelines.
“We occasionally hear from students and alumni who are interested in the university having football,” she said. “However, football is not in our plans for athletics.”
Carson said cost is one of the biggest deterrents when it comes to establishing a football team.
“Football is a very expensive sport to start-up,” she said. “And it would also require a facility in a location that would attract enough fans to sustain the sport.”
Attracting fans hasn’t been much of problem at Albany State University according to Robert Vogel the school’s Assistant Athletic Director for Communications & Marketing.
The south Georgia school has a much smaller student population than UNG (by approximately 12,000 students) but has been the home of the Golden Rams NCAA-Division II football program for decades.
“There’s great interest and support from our students and faculty and alumni,” he said.
He added that ASU has found ways to manage the costs as well.
“Our football program is funded by student fees that are collected,” Vogel said.
Those fees might be something that students like Joseph Beal wouldn’t appreciate though.
The UNG student described himself as “ambivalent” about football when interviewed on campus.
“I don’t really feel anything about it,” he said. “…It wouldn’t do anything to my college experience.”
Meanwhile, Carson said the school has chosen to focus on scholastics and added that there is no shortage of sports programs for UNG students to support.
“Our emphasis is on providing a high-quality educational experience for all of our students, including the nearly 200 student-athletes who currently represent UNG athletics,” she said.
Still, other students like Garland are holding out hope that they will someday be able to cheer on the blue and gold Nighthawks on the gridiron.
“I know we have a baseball team and a soccer team,” he said. “But I would go as far as to say that more people enjoy watching football. And it’s a bit more tradition.”
(Publisher Matt Aiken contributed to the development of this article.)