Picture this: It’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit on a Saturday afternoon in September. The parking lots outside Rafferty Stadium are filled with tailgating students and alumni, and the bleacher seats are packed just before kickoff. The vibrations of the crowd resonate throughout the venue as the starting offense trots onto the field for their first drive as a team in over 20 years. 

Imagining this, I pose a question: What is preventing this vision from becoming a reality?

A significant aspect of a university’s appeal in the admissions process is the influence of sports and how it fosters spirit among students. The Stags undeniably boast sports and school spirit, but could the introduction of a Division 1 (D1) football team elevate this experience even further?

There was a time when Stags football thrived at the university, culminating in a championship win in 1998. Despite their success, the program was discontinued.

In a 2003 edition of The Fairfield Mirror, the cancellation of the football team was attributed to a limited budget, where cutting on-campus programs became inevitable. 

The university believed it made a prudent decision in discontinuing the program to save the $170,747 allocated to team expenses.

However, fast forward 21 years, and with the university experiencing its largest applicant pool for the Class of 2027 (the Class of 2026 being the second largest), it might be worthwhile to reconsider reintroducing a football program.

With an expanding student population comes a broader range of interests, many of which align with sports. As evidenced by recent applicant pools, having a football program could sway some prospective students in choosing Fairfield for their education.

Consider men’s basketball and its total attendance of 33,239 during its 2022-2023 season. Compare this to a school with a similar attendance count in men’s basketball, like Fordham with a 22,690 total count in the same season. For their football team, Fordham had a total attendance of 53,379 for their 2023 season. That is quite a large jump. While this is a small sample size that requires further research, it’s a factor the university could examine when assessing the potential benefits of implementing a football team, including increased merchandise sales, revenue from concessions and ticket purchases.

Turning to the benefits for students, it’s crucial to examine the excitement a football program could bring to campus. The novelty of having such a program would likely lead to more tailgate events and significant turnouts at games, especially during fall weather and when everyone is eager to return to campus. 

Introducing another sport, like D1 football, could make Fairfield an even more appealing option. Considering that some other universities in the MAAC conference do not have a football program, this move could position Fairfield as a prime location for sports enthusiasts, fostering even more school camaraderie and generating additional revenue, despite the increased spending it would demand. 

It is time for Fairfield University to reinstate its D1 football program and make some noise on the gridiron like the Stags of old.

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