Michael D. Crump

(Rock Hill, S.C.) –- Every fall the eyes of sports fans turn to football and for students and alumni of Winthrop University, they must set their sights somewhere other than their own school.

“Having a football team would help lift the school spirit of a school that does not have much to cheer for athletically,” said Justin McWatters, a 2018 Winthrop graduate.

It’s an opinion shared by many, which was reflected in a 2016 Football Feasibility Study conducted by the school.

The study found more than 50 percent of students said a football program could result in greater school pride and more than 60 percent said it could increase student involvement.

“If it is the plan to grow the university, why not bring a football team to help with the task,” asked McWatters.

Dr. Ken Halpin, the athletic director at Winthrop, said it’s more complex than simply saying “if you build it they will come.”

“There is just less state support (for funding football),” he said.

Halpin said the other potential sources of football funding would likely have to come from the school or students, which could come in the form of tuition increases or other fees.

However, Dr. Dan Mahony, president of the university, said in an email to staff on the matter that students are often not willing to accept an increase of fees over $300 per year.

Halpin also expressed concern over how football might impact Winthrop’s standing with Title IX, which requires state funded schools to spend equitably on men’s and women’s sports.

“I think that [Title IX] plays in more so than the financial aspect,” he said.

Additionally, because Winthrop’s student population is predominantly female, roughly 70 percent, more of the funding has to go to women’s sports in order to comply with Title IX.

“When you add a football roster of nearly 100 kids who are primarily going to be male, where do you then make up 120 student-athlete opportunities who are female,” asked Halpin.

While Mahony and the board of trustees hope to have “football put to rest,” many students and alumni still hope to see a program at their school sometime in the near future.

“I think a team would bring a sense of community and we would have something to cheer for,” said McWatters.