Fairfield University used to have a football team. Yes, you read that correctly.
If you’ve ever passed through the lower level of the Barone Campus Center, you’ll find a Fairfield Athletics wall of fame for you to digest in all its glory. Titles, records and other information can be found on these plaques; you can also find one that says “Football”.
The Stags’ former football program had a tumultuous history. According to Volume 19, Issue 18 of The Fairfield Mirror which was published in 1995, the football team was created as an official varsity sport, along with the Division I women’s rowing team we can still watch today.
The article was written by Sports Editor Emeritus Dan Martin ‘96 and is titled “Football is Back!” The article exemplifies hope that would soon be coupled with disappointment only a few years later in 2003.
Martin refers to former Athletic Director Gene Doris, who was new to the role at the time of the decision to bring football back to Fairfield. According to Martin’s article, “The team will be cost-constrained, meaning that the sport will be very limited monetarily and should cost virtually nothing to run, once it gets off the ground.”
On Feb. 6, 2003, Sports Editor Emeritus Mike Pignataro ‘03 wrote a front-page article in Volume 28, Issue 16 of The Fairfield Mirror titled “Final Pass? Football program may be disbanded this week.” That article can also be found and read in the online issue of The Mirror.
According to Pignataro’s article, Athletic Director Eugene Doris stated in a Feb. 5, 2003 budget meeting that football and hockey would be cut for the 2003-04 school year and beyond.
All this is cool and honestly, as I research this, I find myself growing fascinated with the prospect of Fairfield having a football team, even though they had a short history.
Their downfall was ultimately due to the fact that the team was too difficult to sustain given the fact that they were a cost-constrained program. Now, however, I feel as though Fairfield University has what it takes to fund a team like this, and more importantly, provide scholarships to players; this is something that they did not have previously.
Now that we have the history out of the way, I want to give my take. I’m no expert and I am 100% not the person to be calling these shots, as I’m sure there is significantly more that goes into the process of creating a Division I football team from scratch than I realize. Regardless, I think that Fairfield University should bring back football, this time by putting players on scholarships.
According to their June 2003 fiscal year’s Form 990, Fairfield had net assets of $243,218,342. Their June 2020 Form 990 shows net assets of $619,076,584. With net assets more than 2.5 times what they had back in 2003, it seems like there is a bit more wiggle room to sustain a team like football.
An additional perk to this possible program is that there could be even more possible growth with a football team. It could generate single-game revenue from fans and it could sell food at both The Stag Shack and the Cross Sticks Cafe. And ultimately, they could sell season tickets to community members. It feels like a no-brainer to me.
And hey, look, they already have a stadium, so there’s no need to build a completely new one. Rafferty Stadium is used as a football stadium for Fairfield Preparatory School; why not us, too?
Again, I need to clarify that most of the things I’m saying are probably logistical nightmares and these are merely my thoughts from a student perspective.
Although not many notable stars went to the National Football League, Ben McAdoo, former New York Giants head coach, was an offensive line coach here at Fairfield in the final season, according to his bio on the Carolina Panthers’ official website. If they got McAdoo before for their offensive coaching core, what is stopping them from seeking out bigger-name coaches like him?
I’m sure it would cost a great deal to run a football team, and I don’t doubt in the slightest that Fairfield may have a hard time creating this team from the ground up, as would any college or university. I think, however, it would be beneficial to see how the campus is growing and evolving with time and to poll students to get an idea of how many people actually would attend games.
Maybe one day, down the road, Fairfield can add back their football program that once saw success. Although many challenges are present, I think that a great deal of students around campus would love to see a football team here on campus.
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