The addition of football to IWU’s athletic program is closer to becoming a reality. The Board of Trustees, in conjunction with President Smith and SGA, formed a study commission on Oct. 1 to look further into the topic. Along with football, the board also discussed IWU’s potential move from NAIA to NCAA Division II for all sports.
The Blue Ribbon Commission will have its first official meeting in a few weeks and begin its study along with coaches, staff and players. Between then and the April 1 Board of Trustees meeting, the commission will research and weigh the potential outcomes and benefits of implementing a football team at IWU.
As president, Dr. Henry Smith serves several roles throughout the process of considering a football team. Smith said that both the commission and IWU are committed to in-depth research and good decisionmaking for the betterment of the school.
“We must attempt to anticipate how football will affect our overall campus culture, the possible impact a high-profile sport like football might have on the entire intercollegiate athletic program and what the financial needs would be for such a venture,” Smith said.
Over the next six months, many people will take a deeper look into the possibilities of the program. With such a grueling task in an allotted time, Smith has appointed Chet Foraker, a retired coach and athletic director, to assist the commission in the coming months.
Smith has also been active in requesting funds to complete the study and setting the guidelines and parameters. If and when the commission suggests football as an adequate fit for IWU, then a timeline for implementation will be arranged.
The financial budget would be a concern to the program, along with the Title IX regulations that must be met. IWU Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said a lot must be considered and dealt with as this process goes on.
“We will have to do a complete financial pro forma and look at what other schools have done,” he said.
DeMichael said that IWU has always stayed in compliance with gender equality regulations.
“We will have to ask ourselves, what does adding football do to the compliance issue and the standards and what do we need to do to stay in compliance with Title IX?” he said.
Several MCC teams have added football in recent years and seen substantial growth in each of the respective universities.
Ross Tanzer (jr) has been chosen as one of the athletes to research and provide study and background from a students’ perspective. Tanzer said IWU has the possibility to thrive on the gridiron.
“I think it will take a few years to build, but if we stick with it and realize it will take time to grow [it has the opportunity to succeed],” Tanzer said.
Along with football, the Board of Trustees is looking into the leap from NAIA to NCAA Division II for all IWU sports.
The board sent in its application to Division II this month. It cost $115,000 just to be considered. Like football, several stages must be completed before adjustments can begin to take place.
DeMichael, along with Dr. Todd Voss, executive vice president of IWU, have carefully looked at and planned the proposals.
“The study group will be appointed to carefully unpack the details to determine if [football and NCAA Division II] are fit for Indiana Wesleyan,” Voss said.
Smith and DeMichael said the ascent to NCAA will boost the athletic program and make it more credible and recognizable to outsiders.
“It seems that NCAA II might give us a more definable and understood platform for IWU athletics. NAIA is not an easily understood conference to the general public,” he said.
Although these changes will not happen immediately, Tanzer said he is excited about the direction the athletic program is heading.
“[NCAA Division II] is more challenging and I think we can be an example for Christ through it,” he said. “[Football] will bring in more students and give students something to do on a Saturday, and is great for school spirit.”
The commission will meet six times between now and March and decide where to go from there. While the process might seem simple and straightforward, a lot of behind-the-scenes work must be done before the proposals become a reality.
Smith, now in his fifth year as president, said he is dedicated to the highest standards of procedure and research that will most benefit the university.
“We will not make a decision either way on something as important as football without careful and prayerful consideration,” Smith said. “And, neither of these things will increase the cost to attend IWU.”