Grand View considers football

Sept. 19, 2006

By Dan McCool, Des Moines Register Staff Writer

Julie Brightman favors the idea of Grand View College (Iowa) adding football to its list of sports.

"I don't think it's a bad idea," the 24-year-old elementary education major from Des Moines said. "Football is football, and I love to watch football. It would probably bring in more people."

The school's board of trustees this month approved a $27 million bond issue to fund several campus projects including the start of a football program. Kent Henning, president of the NAIA school in Des Moines, said the sport could become reality in 2008 with junior varsity games, and cost between $2 million to $3 million if plans include setting up practice facilities on campus.

Among the benefits for the Des Moines school would be an increase in enrollment, Henning said.

"For a small private college like Grand View, the reward for the risk is enrolling the students who want to play football," Henning said. "If we don't have football, those students are taking their tuition dollars elsewhere."

Henning said a decision to build a practice facility near campus or work with existing facilities on campus needs to be finalized. Athletic director Lou Yacinich said the campus is land-locked, so grooming a new football practice facility would require careful planning and scheduling. Henning said facilities must be established for locker and weight-training facilities suitable for a large-roster sport.

Another decision is whether or not the school that moved to NAIA from junior college status in 1979 wants to build its own stadium immediately or use a high school stadium.

Carol Bamford, vice president of marketing at Grand View, said no firm decisions have been made in regards to any fees or subsidization the students would undertake. Bamford said no athletic programs at Grand View turn a profit.

The school's full-time undergraduate enrollment for fall 2005 was 1,372 - 68 percent female and 32 percent male - according to Debbie Barger, Grand View vice president for enrollment management.

Adding programs might go against the grain in Division I, but Henning said it's happening more at smaller private colleges like Grand View.

"Across the country and in the Midwest, there have been other smaller colleges that have added athletic programs, and indeed have added football. I think the rationale is we see the student demand," Henning said.

"We see in our admissions office a fairly significant student interest in football specifically, but also in other athletic programs. Just about seven years ago when I arrived here, we had only seven sports. We now have 14."

Dordt College in Sioux Center will play a junior varsity schedule this fall and play in the Great Plains Athletic Conference in 2008.

"Athletics done right - and I'm biased toward small colleges - can support academic goals," Henning said. "There is plenty of research that indicates students who are connected with their institution in multiple ways are more apt to be successful in the classroom."

Grand View started women's soccer in 1998 and has added or re-started men's and/or women's programs in competitive dance (2002), cross country (2003), golf (2004) and track (2006). Yacinich said men's and women's tennis could be reinstated next fall.

Henning said adding a sport such as golf is not as taxing as football.

"We didn't have to build a golf course," Henning said. "We needed to hire a coach, budget some money for travel and some other minor team expenses. We didn't have to take that up in the context of a campus master plan."

The bond issue also includes a new academic building, more dormitory space and replacing the heating and air conditioning system in the school's library.

Adding a sport such as football would help the total campus grow, Henning said.

"It helps enhance the college atmosphere for all students," Henning said. "There still are a large number of students who want to move onto campus and engage fully in college life. Part of that is going to athletic events on weekends and participating in co-curricular activities themselves."

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