Future Instate Division I-A Opponent?

by Eric Gilmore

’Bout darn time. Recent reports have heated up about UNCW’s willingness to implement a football team. These rumblings could be the first step to future Seahawks donning shoulder pads.

According to reports, the UNCW student government held an open forum on Tuesday night to assess whether a football team could be feasible. Over 300 students were in attendance for the discussion session. But the echoes from the summit could be heard loud and wide.

Athletic director Mike Cappacio answered questions from students about potential costs of jump-starting a program. He estimated that it would take upwards of $35 million to finance a team. A facility would be a top priority, as well as needed scholarship benefits.

Money aside, roughly 65 women’s scholarships would have to be added to supplement the men’s additions. Title IX, passed in 1972, requires that institutions receiving federal money have equal scholarships from both men and women’s sports.

UNCW officials have stated that it is not their wish to cut current sports offered by the university. But it would seem likely that UNCW would be forced to cut some women’s and even men’s sports to cut the funding gap.

UNCW could either cut men’s soccer, golf or tennis to create more room for the women’s scholarship to carry more weight. Women’s crew or lacrosse could be possible ideas. Even so, limiting Olympic sports would be a route that UNCW would have to gingerly tiptoe across. Even though the Olympic sports don’t profit for the university, alumni would be very upset if specific teams were cut.

The real issue is (as usual) money. The Seahawks would have to privately campaign for money from alumni and student fees. Local taxpayers may be asked to contribute. UNCW hasn’t even polled their alumni base to see what kind of response they would receive.


Float your mind ten years down the road. UNCW could be a huge state rival for ECU at the Division I-A level. The rivalry makes more sense for ECU than any current conference affiliates. The similar state schools could develop into one of the best rivalries in the state.

Building a successful program from scratch can be done. Obviously, USF is the exception. Ten years ago, the Bulls had just started their program. Now a decade later, USF controls its own destiny towards a BCS bowl.

Granted, UNCW doesn’t have a pro facility down the road like Tampa. Seahawk officials would have to build a stadium to support the team. Upwards costs for a smaller level stadium can be $35 million. UCF, which recently announced their plans for an on-campus stadium, budgeted $65 million solely for the facility. But if UNCW has the means, the way is the easy part.

Old Dominion is in the process of building their football team. The Monarchs polled their alumni and hired consultants. A Board of Trustees voted unanimously to start a team in 2009. ODU is currently raising a required $8 million in endowments by June, 1 2006. Most importantly, ODU realized how important a football team was to connecting their alumni and stimulating the local economy.

ECU’s home football games are estimated to generate $40 million for the local economy. Wilmington, a port city based on tourism, could solicit more than little Greenville and a lack of leisure entertainment.

As of now, ECU and Coastal Carolina are the two closest collegiate football programs to Wilmington. A football team could quell some of the local fans’ interest. It could also prove as a forum for old friends to unite.

If UNCW were a solidified Division I-A team, they would severely hamper ECU’s thunder in the eastern portion of the state. While the rivalry would be a great benefit, ECU would have to work even harder to coax high school athletes to Greenville.

How can ECU compete with the beach as a recruiting tool? Ask any red-blooded student whether he likes Wilmington or Greenville better. Pirate fans probably wouldn’t like the answer. Doing homework on the beach is much more appealing than any sell that ECU coaches could give.

Unfortunately for UNCW, the student open forum never agreed upon any dates toward establishing a football team. But it did make headlines and ignite discussion, which just might be enough.


Random Thought of the Week


When was the last time that the basketball team had more known recruits than the football team in November? Four men’s recruits signed in the early period while three women inked their commitments. As of now, only three football verbals have been made public. Time to panic?

Eric Gilmore