Historically Black Allen University Drops Football Program
Allen University has dropped its football program because the small, historically Black college can’t afford the $1.4 million annual price tag, school officials say.
“That’s a lot of money for a school with about 600 students. For half a million dollars, I could do so much,” says university President Charles Young.
He noted the school’s five-year master plan that includes building three new dormitories and a new cafeteria, at a cost of $8 million.
But for players like running back Quentin Beasley, the decision threatens a longtime love affair with the sport.
“When you play here, there’s no big stadium, no TV time, no Saturday crowd,” he said. “You play football at Allen because you love football.”
William Jefferson, director of alumni affairs and head of the alumni association’s 1,000 Plus Club, says alumni come back to the school for football games if nothing else.
“The spirit comes from football,” he says.
The 1,000 Plus Club donated $40,000 annually to help support the football program. But that’s not nearly enough to keep a team on the field.
The $1.4 million in annual costs included $300,000 in scholarships — ranging from $1,000 a year to a $12,000 full ride — for 80 football players, says Tony Spearman, Allen’s vice president of business and finance.
The school brought in less than $30,000 in 2005 while playing six home games in two rented high school stadiums, he says.
Without the football program, Young says Allen can now focus on courting students’ academic dreams.
“The National Football League does not come here to recruit,” he says. “But the FBI, BellSouth, Merrill-Lynch and other corporations are coming here to recruit Allen University students. So we need to focus on that.”
Some members of the team hope to play football for elsewhere next season.
Thirty of the team’s 45 freshmen came from other states. Nearly all of them are transferring to less expensive public schools in their home states, says Thomas Neil, who was named athletics director in January to help dismantle the football team.
The school’s board of trustees declared a five-year moratorium on the sport in October. Players weren’t told until they returned to campus in January.
Freshman strong safety Chris Herans says he is sifting through offers from several schools, including Fort Valley State University in Georgia and Miles College in Alabama. He says he was most disappointed that the news came as a surprise, after the Yellow Jackets wrapped up their first winning season in the three years they’ve been competing intercollegiately. The program began as a club team in 2001 but had been playing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Eastern Conference since 2003.
“They canceled the team, and we didn’t even get any recognition for that,” says Herans, one of five Yellow Jackets named to the All-Southeast Atlantic Conference team. “They could have given us trophies before they cut it off.”
— Associated Press
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