Many Colorado College students grew up in places where homecoming weekends were marked by the presence of colorful leaves, fleece jackets, alumni, and football. It has been four years since we’ve had a football team at Colorado College, and as the ex-football players on campus have dwindled, so too has nostalgia for football being a cornerstone of homecoming weekend.
So, is football still something Colorado College is missing? The football team was cut the summer before I matriculated at Colorado College and I have not heard of many students grumbling for the return of CC football. That certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t students and alumni who feel otherwise.
The Washburn Foundation was founded in 2009 to help support Colorado College athletics and to seek restoration of football, as well as other sports. Their initial goal was to revive the 127-year tradition of football at Colorado College. The football team, water polo teams, and women’s softball team were discontinued in the outcome of a mandated $8 to $12 million budget cut for the 2009 academic year. Alumni were alerted that the decision to cut the football team would be revisited in three years time and the Washburn Foundation’s most recent update reflects the unlikelihood of a revival in the near future.
“The Foundation Board is currently discussing our options, but frankly we all need a break. Fortunately, it is the right time of the year for that. Work will continue, and questions and comments are welcome. Those of you still with us, we appreciate your patience and understanding,” wrote Jerry DiMarco, Board Member and Colorado College alum ’74.
In a July 2009 issue of The Colorado College Bulletin, the problems the football program were explicitly addressed:
“CC football, has long faced challenges beyond the financial realm. Maintaining appropriate roster sizes has been a concern for many years. Even with the known challenges, the college has remained committed to sponsoring a football program until the economic realities changed over the past months. As evidence of the significant challenges, note that CC football has had one winning season in the past 32 years. CC will save approximately $450,000 per year by eliminating our football program, ” wrote Bob Manning, Colorado College alum’69.
Between the recent installation of a new turf field without football lines, and Athletic Director Ken Ralph’s instruction to no longer engage in conversations about the football program, it is unlikely that football will be brought back any time soon. As glum as this news may be to many, it has not deterred members of the Washburn Foundation, who are not ready to give up the fight.
“We believe that the review done by the trustees was short lived and perfunctory, and did not take adequate notice of the hundreds of alums wishing football to return, and many who are prepared to send money to make that happen. So, we will continue to raise the issue when the time is right,” said Rich McDermott Washburn Foundation board president (Class of ’78).
Rich McDermott is alum of the football program, and his son, Matthew McDermott, was a member of the football team when it was cut. Matthew wound up transferring to play football at Whitworth University in Washington State, but his father is still dedicated to the program. When I asked Rich what he had to say about the 32 year loosing record, he surprised me with his answer that was reminiscent of Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute mile.
“If CC were about every one of their teams having winning records, they would have to cut a lot more teams. It’s better to have competed and lost, and to have learned from that experience, than to not have had that experience of participating,” McDermott said.
To answer whether or not football is something Colorado College is missing, it is worth considering the following: CC currently supports 17 varsity sports, while our peers support anywhere from 20 to 32. Nearly all of the liberal arts institutions in CC’s peer group (institutions that are founded with male students or as co-educational) have varsity football and have more of their students involved in varsity sports. Only 13.5% CC’s students participate in intercollegiate athletics, while most of the other colleges range between 20% and 40%. The support of athletics at these other institutions is highly visible in their mission statements, recruiting, schedules, foundations, and faculty liaison programs.
Some feel that Colorado College is ahead of the curb in cutting football, as the financial strain of running a football program is considerable for a small school. Others, like the members of the Washburn Foundation, love the game, love the school spirit it inspires, and are still prepared to fight to revive football at Colorado College. Despite their best efforts, now just does not seem like the right time for Football’s come back at CC.
For more information on Colorado College football, check out the Washburn Foundation on its website: http://www.washburnfoundation.org