It’s a question many alumni and students are asking. Can ACU excel at the Div. 1 level, even if football continues to struggle?
Of course, the immediate answer is, absolutely. Or maybe it’s hopefully. But let me help you make a more educated decision.
For the last 10 months everything has been centered around the new Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium. Two games have now been played there, with a third on tab for this weekend. The first game being a sellout, and the second a near sellout.
Tailgates have been brought back to campus and the atmosphere of game days has brought alumni in from all over.
There have been other things built around campus that have garnered attention, but it’s safe to say the main attraction for recruiting, both academically and athletically; the main draw from community support and even a big contributor to retention, has been the stadium.
Beyond the stadium, many of the university headlines have also involved the football team. Whether it be about the new head coach Adam Dorrel, or the chance for a fresh start and bright future, the amount of coverage has been drastically skewed to begin the semester. And rightfully so.
In the department of athletics, the football program plays a huge role. In the first two games alone, the team was paid 650,000 dollars just to show up. Now that’s no where near a season’s budget for the team, but it sure does make a nice dent. And of course ticket sales bring in a nice penny, and the exposure the program has gotten the university as of late is hard to argue with.
But is all of that effected by the wins and losses? At this point, one can’t honestly say, but even if the Wildcats lose every game the rest of this season, it doesn’t change the mentality of the university.
Among the 14 varsity sports, there will be plenty of winning. The soccer team and cross country teams are among the best in their conferences and volleyball is up-and-coming. The women’s basketball team is two-time defending conference champions and the men have finished near .500 in conference play the last two years, despite playing in one of the toughest mid-major conferences. And don’t forget about the softball team or tennis. Softball was 20-7 in conference play, and the men’s tennis team won a conference championship.
Aside from sports, ACU has been on the map. While some might say it has never been known at this level of recognition, many would argue it has been for a while with so many great alumni leading innovation and excellence around the world. So I don’t think a few wins or losses for the football team is going to change that. As one of my colleagues said a few weeks ago, there are plenty of well known Div. 1 teams that have struggling football teams.
I think if the university wants to continue to find success even at the Div. 1 level, it can’t stretch itself too thin in one area, but rather continuing to support the things it has done well for so long. And if the football program starts to gain national attention, then that is a huge advantage. But let’s not put all our money on the prettiest horse.
If football doesn’t win, the stadium is not a fail, nor is the transition to Div. 1. ACU will continue to be excellent because of its Christian leaders and service. So before we try to blame any of the university’s issues on a turf field with cooling pellets, let’s make we’re doing what we can to live out its mission.