NCAA football still not on the horizon for Golden Grizzlies

Club football will just have to do for now.

So many myths circulate around Oakland University’s lack of an NCAA-level football team. Two of the more popular myths are that Matilda Wilson didn’t like contact sports or that we don’t qualify to have a team.

Spoiler: neither of these are actually true.

The last time The Oakland Post tackled this issue in depth was in 2009, before the club team existed. Oakland has undergone a lot of changes since then, but the question still remains: Why doesn’t OU have a Division I football team?

The football OU does have

In 2013, students started a club football team. At OU, it runs just like a student organization and does all of its own scheduling and fundraising. The team is currently part of the National Club Football Association.

“It’s nice that the university can enjoy college football now without being in the NCAA,” said Nicholas Bongers, the faculty adviser and an inaugural member of the club. “I think it’s inspiring for future conversations about starting a program.”

When it got started, the club had to gather signatures from students to support it and find players who were interested. They were approved by the CSA in November 2012 and played their first season the following fall.

While the team doesn’t have a spot on campus to play, their games at the Auburn Hills Civic Center have a faithful amount of attendees, according to Bongers. But the hope is that the team will eventually be part of campus sports.

“I know the players would love that,” Bongers said. “But they know that’s not something they can control. What they can control is winning football games. If we keep winning championships, it’ll help the conversation.”

Why there’s no NCAA program

While the club team has won many games and snagged a national title in 2014, a football program doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now for OU.

“We would have to overcome several hurtles,” said Jeff Konya, the director of Oakland Athletics. “There are facility challenges, staffing challenges and my personal opinion is that it would have to start out with a non-scholarship model in order to contain the cost.”

In other words, a football program would cost OU a very pretty penny. According to the American Council on Education, though there are exceptions, college sports just don’t tend to make schools a lot of money.

“I don’t think it’s on the table right now that we can enact,” Konya said. “It wouldn’t be just an Athletics decision either. It would be a campus decision. The students and the campus would really have to support it.”

One of Konya’s other points was that his department’s focus is to take care of their current athletes.

“We want our current student-athletes to get the best student-athlete experience possible,” Konya said. “Whatever sport we add, we want it to be viable within the culture we’ve established.”

But, he did say that the idea isn’t completely off the table.

“I think we just haven’t had a right time yet,” Konya said.

Now that that’s cleared up, let’s all stop blaming Matilda Wilson.

“If we had a dollar for every time someone said we don’t have football because Matilda Wilson didn’t like contact sports, we’d have enough money to start a football program,” Bongers joked.