Commentary: The club football team should be an NCAA sport

Oakland University finally got themselves a football team for the first time in in 2013. However, the football team is a club sport, which means everything that it is not considered to be a team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). However, with the success this team has had, Oakland University needs to find a way to make this football team to be apart of the NCAA.

Since the club’s formation, the club football team has a record of 26-5 and has won two National Club Football Association (NCFA) championships in 2014 and 2016. They lost only one game in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined. That one loss came in the second round of the NCFA playoffs. But the most impressive stat was during those two seasons, they outscored their opponents 662 to 288, which includes 90-6 and a 73-0 victories over the University of Michigan-Flint club football team in their two meetings in 2017. The football club seemed unbeatable during the 2017 regular season. Before the 2017 season started, former head coach Tom Menas told his players that he had been having trouble finding teams to play because no one wanted to play them. They had their four conference opponents, but needed three more teams to play in order to have a full schedule. Other than their four conference opponents, the football club played two semi-pro teams and had a preseason game against University of Concordia-Ann Arbor.

As a club sport, Oakland University does not give the football team any money at all. The players pay-to-play, host fundraisers, and make pitches to different companies for their sponsorships. All the money goes to hotel fees, travel fees, coaches pay, uniforms, and referees. That sounds a lot like high school. But this is not high school, this is college and these are college athletes. These players are not awarded scholarships and they do not play for free. That isn’t fair to these players. Because of this, the club team loses out on some great high school talent. I was actually one of them.

In high school, I was down to two options to go to school: Adrian College or Oakland University. I really liked Oakland because it was close to home, cheaper, and I could easily work during the school year. However, Adrian College offered me a scholarship to play football for them and their football team was apart of the NCAA Divison III program. So I chose Adrian College so I could get the full college-athlete experience. Sadly, I suffered two concussions within a month during the season so I had to hang up my cleats and stop playing…and because of that, I lost my scholarship, which led me to transfer to Oakland University. As I look back at it, if I was able to get any scholarship from Oakland University to play football, I think I would’ve chosen Oakland over Adrian because they were just coming off a national championship win and I really wanted a championship ring, but I lost my chance. Imagine how many more talented players the football team lost out on because they aren’t a NCAA sport and are unable to give out scholarships.

Last season, the football club had two players quit the team during the season, not because the team was bad or a lack of playing time, but because it was too easy and it wasn’t fun due to lack of competition. I really don’t blame them. I wouldn’t be having fun playing football if my team was beating teams like that. These players deserve to be tested and they deserve to face better competition, competition they won’t get in the NCFA. Which is why I’m proposing that the club football team should be a varsity sport for Oakland University and be part of the Horizon League or join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) so they can finally have some real competition.

Unfortunately due to the Dodge family, Oakland University cannot have any varsity contact sports, which includes football, hockey, rugby, water polo and wrestling. That isn’t fair. I don’t think the school realizes that they could actually make a profit if they have these contact sports. Yes, the athletic department would have to pay for the usual fees and the school would have to hand out even more athletic scholarships, especially for football, but imagine the crowds in the stands on Saturdays, watching Oakland football march on the field. You could finally have a traditional homecoming game, a packed stadium to watch the football team play, and if the team is just as successful playing at an upper level, then the school will start seeing all the money come in from the ticket sales, concession sales, programs, and OU football apparel.

So this change would not only benefit the football team, but it would benefit the school as well. So I say throw out the Dodge agreement and give Oakland University a true football team. This team is ready to face better competition and they are ready to prove that they belong in the NCAA and to show that they aren’t just a bunch of NCAA student-athlete rejects. They want to show that that the schools that passed up on them coming out of high school made a huge mistake. But they cannot do that unless the school allows this team to become a varsity sport. If you ask me, I think it is a no-brainer. Make this football club a varsity sport. Let them show us what they can really do against some real competition.