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FBS School Addresses Possibility Of Dropping Football

Three footballs next to a pylon

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Eastern Michigan football has been one of the weaker FBS programs for a while. There have been ongoing discussions on that campus about the feasibility of remaining at the Division I level.

Back in April 2016, a group of students and faculty released a report recommending that the school drop to a lower level for financial reasons. In it, they called fielding a competitive football program at Eastern Michigan a "losing proposition." Via the Detroit Free Press:

“Culturally and geographically, EMU football will simply never succeed from an attendance and financial standpoint,” faculty member Howard Bunsis, who helped prepare the report, said in a presentation to the Board of Regents on Friday. “It is a losing proposition – always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane.

Days later, the school released an open letter addressing the report. It denied that there has been any movement for the Eagles to ditch football or drop to a lower level.

In the past several days, there has been considerable media coverage of reports that indicate that Eastern Michigan University is considering eliminating football, or reducing support for football by dropping down to a lower division of the NCAA and by dropping out of the Mid-American Conference. These reports are not based on any solid factual information. We have absolutely no plans to eliminate football or move into any other division or conference.

Calls for Eastern Michigan to bail on Division I football have not gone away.

The school recently announced that it will drop four sports: softball, men's swimming, women's tennis, and wrestling. The move will save the school an estimated $2.4 million annually.

In the wake of that decision, the specter of football spending continues to loom. Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee responded to those arguments once again. From MLive.com:

"Football is not being cut," Wetherbee said in a news conference inside the Convocation Center. "No. 1, because I had a directive from our board of regents and the president, and we all agree we want to stay in the Mid-American Conference and we want to be a FBS Division I football team.

Wetherbee acknowledges that there are significant costs to run the football program, which he calculated out to $6.9 million for a program that brought in $5 million, before donations. However, he also argued that there are benefits to the school as a whole that don't get calculated in by those who have called for EMU to ditch the sport.

"(If football is cut) then we are eliminating 85 scholarships, plus the other 30-35 walk-ons. We are eliminating more student credit hours on this campus than I did just now. (Then) you don't have a marching band that pays to go to school here. You don't have cheerleaders and dancers out there.

"There is more to it than just lop off the football program because a coach makes a lot of money. There is certainly a lot more to it."

EMU launched its program back in 1891, and has been a member of the MAC since 1971, joining the same year as Central Michigan. The last few years have seen an upturn for the Eagles. Chris Creighton's team went 7-6 and went to the Bahamas Bowl in 2016, and was 5-7 in 2017, after a 3-21 start to his tenure in Ypsilanti.

[MLive.com]