Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making Football Happen at Utah Valley. Revisiting Utah Valley Football.

I read this recent article from The Upset Blog about football at Utah Valley University.  I learned some things that I did not know before, for example the 1.5 million per year that the University has been putting away for conference affiliation activities.  This also explains the reason why UVU never had football to begin with.

The Upset seems to come to the conclusion that football at UVU is possible, but to join at the FBS level right away may not be realistic.  This has been done at two other universities, recently, at South Florida and Texas San Antonio.  At USF, the results have been mixed and, according to ESPN, USF is using some unorthodox marketing practices to escape the shadow of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who they share a stadium with.  At least they are now in a BCS conference.  UTSA officially started football in 2010, red-shirted the entire team and will play their first game in 2011.  We will see the Roadrunners in Cedar City in September.  They will join the WAC in 2012.

UTSA has the perfect situation for starting football directly at the FBS level.  There is a large, mostly unused, stadium in the city that never managed to attract a permanent NFL team.  The Alamodome has needed a regular tenant since being completed in the early 1990s.  The nearest BCS program to San Antonio is Texas in Austin about 80 miles to the north.  The Roadrunners will have a market of over 2 million all to themselves.  Utah Valley does not have a stadium to play in and the nearest BCS program is only 30 miles away, plus there is another FBS program about 5 miles to the east.

To Valley's advantage, however, only about 15% of BYU's student body is from Utah Valley.  As BYU's focus becomes more national, Valley can focus on winning the hearts and minds of the local population by serving the folks in the Provo/Orem area that can not get accepted to BYU.

The problem becomes a stadium.  They could begin playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, but that is really too far away from campus to expect the student body to attend en-masse.  Sharing LaVell Edwards stadium with BYU would force them to work around the Cougars schedule...something that is likely not practical.  The stadium would have to be completed before the Wolverines play a down of football, if you expect to go directly to the FBS.  Even though you only need to have 15,000 in paid or actual attendance to be FBS eligible, the average WAC stadium is about 30,000.  Valley would need a 25,000 to 35,000 seat stadium ready.

The Big Sky Conference is more realistic, and a better fit for Valley sports in the mean time.  The stadium could be smaller, and the school could build it to be easily and cheaply expandable.  Also, in the Big Sky Conference, Valley could bring temporary bleachers into Brent Brown Ballpark while the stadium is under construction.  This would, of course, only be a temporary solution to the problem.

Another sacrifice that the Utah Valley student body would need to make to accommodate football is some parking space.  Utah Valley has ample parking compared to their brother campuses in the state.  If you complain about the Parking at Utah Valley University, try the parking situation at the University of Utah, or Weber State or Utah Sate.  My suggestion is Parking Lot T and the vacant lot to the south and west of that parking lot as the site for the stadium.  As for the cost, Aggie Stadium at UC Davis cost 30 million.  I expect that UVU could build a similar stadium for 20 million.  That stadium seats 10,000, but was planned to be expandable to 30,000. 

For football at UVU to happen right now, there would need to be some corporate sponsorship dollars come in.  UVU might only have just enough to make this happen assuming a best-case financial scenario.  1.5 million for 10 years plus interest...means that they are a little short of the 20 million needed for a stadium right now.  Are there companies in Orem that would help pony up that kind of money?  Of course, the University could float a bond for it the stadium, but the regents and the community would need to vote for it.  It would be a tough sell in BYU-land. 

Realistically, UVU football is at least 5 years away.  Five more years of saving funds, plus a improved economy would help attract a corporate sponsor willing to help.  By that time, the WAC will either be over their expansion crisis, or they will be a memory.  Either way, there will be no push for UVU football from the outside.

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