Is the University of Denver missing out on the “American college football experience”?

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 11.48.51 PM
Photo by Lauren Zurcher

College sports play a significant role in the United States. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive reports that around 47 percent of Americans follow college sports. Many people view college football as the most important sports activity in America. According to research led by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the most popular sport amongst spectators is men’s college football. In every state across the nation, the greatest teams play in stadiums that can hold well over 100,000.

Fans including alumni, current students, and the local citizenry invest their time, energy, money, and emotion into the games.

In 1960, the University of Denver football team participated in their last game against Colorado State ending with a win of 21-12. This was the Pioneer’s final season. On January 9, 1961, Chancellor Chester Alter declared that the Board of Trustees had unanimously voted in favor of putting an end to the football program at the University of Denver. Currently, DU is one of the few colleges in the United States that does not a have a football team.

According to Ron Grahame, Director of Athletics at the University of Denver, the program was discontinued as a result of insufficient financial resources.

“Football was dropped due to the cost of running the sport and lack of funding for other institutional programming,” says Grahame.

“In my experience as a student-athlete, coach, and administrator, there hasn’t been the support or need to add the sport back at any time over the past fifty plus years,” he adds.

Jenny Kelly, a freshman at the University of Denver, explains how her college experience is affected by the absence of a football team.

“I do kind of miss the classic college football games,” says Kelly, “It seems to be part of the whole American college experience.”

Individuals view college football as an essential aspect of American culture. As soon as it was founded in 1820, American college football became an important tradition and community building activity in the United States.

Although football is no longer an option, there are numerous other popular sports that provide the same opportunities at the University of Denver. They include hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, golf, skiing, and rugby.

“I guess not having a football team at DU is okay, because hockey and lacrosse are so big that it kind of takes its place,” says Kelly.

Effectively, Kelly still enjoys attending other sporting events.

Since the University of Denver terminated its football program, hockey has become the most popular sport to attend and root for. Similarly to football, the student population can attain typical fan experiences and emotions, such as loud crowds, tail gate events, team apparel, spirit, and fight songs.

Amos Ejuwa, a senior football player at Smoky Hill High School in Colorado, admits he would consider attending a college that does not have the sport. However, he really enjoys playing football and would prefer a college that does have a team.

“College football is definitely a good thing,” says Ejuwa, “I’m still going to a college that has a football team, so that I can watch games and be a part of that college experience.”

Moe Wyatt, a freshman football player at Chadron State in Nebraska, was raised in Colorado and says he would have attended the University of Denver to play football if they had a team.

“I would have gone to the University of Denver, because I love Colorado and miss the mountains,” says Wyatt, “The campus in nice.”

A survey, conducted in 2017, reveals how students ages 15 to 20 feel about attending a college that does not have a football team. Approximately 45 percent of the participants said they would not attend such a college.

Infographic by Lauren Zurcher

The nonexistent football team at the University of Denver does not affect admissions nor does it negatively influence its current students, according to the Director of Athletics at the University of Denver.

“They could have made the choice to attend a school that sponsored football, and they decided to enroll at Denver,” says Grahame about the students.

“The university has taken athletics in a direction that was sustainable and successful,” he adds.

According to the Director of Athletics, the University of Denver will most likely not be adding football back into its curriculum. He does not foresee a future in football at the university, because the campus does not have the facilities, resources, or infrastructure to support the program.

“We won’t be adding football,” says Grahame.

“As an alumni and longtime coach/administrator at Denver, my only college athletics experience has been non-football related, and I think we’ve done a great job managing those resources and programming,” says Grahame.

Stu Halsall, Associate Vice Chancellor for Recreation and Ritchie Center Operations at the University of Denver, has spent 14 years with the university and shares similar views as Grahame. Halsall believes that for an institution such as the University of Denver, football would not be successful. He states that the university has done well without the sport and will continue to do so.

“Football would require facilities that we likely could not build due to land restrictions, and likely require additional sports to be added due to Conference affiliation or Title IX requirements,” says Halsall, “I believe that admissions, students, and alumni thrive without football on the campus.”

Halsall came to the United States from England in 1990 after being recruited from the Great Britain American Football National Team, of which he was the captain. In light of his significant passion for and involvement in the sport, he not only accepts that the university does not have a football program, he further advocates the greater benefits of its absence.

“We have balanced athletic offerings at the University of Denver that help build our community,” says Halsall, “students can attend exciting sporting events, as well as participate in a wide array of opportunities in sports, wellness, and the outdoors.”

“I believe that these opportunities far outweigh a football experience,” says Halsall.

Photo by Lauren Zurcher

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *