Over the past 30 years numerous attempts have been made to bring football back to Wichita State University.
My question is: Why?
It was announced on Monday that start-up facility costs will be at least $40 million, then the school would have to budget $6 million a year to operate the program.
Wichita State didn’t draw well when it had a program. And should it be brought back, my guess is that once the curiosity factor has worn off Cessna Stadium will be lucky to be half-full, less than that if the team doesn’t win many games.
Wichita State has gotten along fine without football. It has its super-charged basketball program to keep its fans’ interest and given the mediocrity of the Missouri Valley Conference, that should continue as long as Gregg Marshall keeps getting increases in salary. Its baseball program also brought it national recognition until Gene Stephenson was forced out, now it’s plummeted and attendance has dwindled. If you don’t win in Wichita, they won’t come.
The biggest drawback I see is the state of Cessna Stadium. While it’s still used for high school football on Friday nights and the Kansas State Track and Field Meet in May, it’s a run-down eyesore. Tons of money would have to be spent to spruce up the place as it has badly deteriorated. The last time I was in the press box it was old and stodgy. The playing field itself would need an overhaul, probably Astroturf. According to a report, it would take more than $20 million to renovate Cessna.
And how would Wichita State be able to recruit quality athletes, especially Kansans? Kansas State and Kansas have a hard enough time keeping the good players in-state. You also need coaches and staff, which combined would cost well over id="mce_marker" million a year.
While Wichita State can compete at a national level in basketball, there’s no way it could build a football program to be Division I-worthy. It no doubt would have to play at the Sub-Division level, like North Dakota State. Even then, how many years would it take for the Shockers to be even competitive?
I understand what having a college football team means to a school. In my days as a student at KU, I loved Game Days as tailgating would start early and I lived close enough to Memorial Stadium that I could walk. While KU was just about as horrible then as it is now, it was still a happening and Homecoming Weekend brought in a lot of alums. There was an energy on campus on Game Days as it was fun to walk about and see everybody enjoying themselves.
Wichita does have a college football team — the KCAC Friends Falcons, whose roster includes a lot of Wichita players and more from the surrounding Metro area. While they have been successful more often than not, there’s generally less than 1,000 fans, sometimes no more than 500. With it being the only college football game in town and such little response, what makes Wichita State believe it could put 30,000 fans in the seats on crisp, fall days?
I think for a school of Wichita State’s ilk, talk of bringing back football should be just that — talk, but no action.