Except in Irvine, College Football Hits Campuses Nationwide.
Students plan their entire day around seeing their school play and nothing else seems to matter except the game. The buzz is undeniable throughout campuses as teams, peers and friends take the field in front of 80,000 crazed fans. Students, just like you and me, put their heart and soul into a 60-minute rumble against other schools going just as crazy. There is actual pride in where you live, breathe, stress, hate, love, party and study. Every Saturday in the fall, that pride is exposed by how badly you want your school to win. Kids have real pride in their school and hold nothing back when Saturday rolls around.
I am, like you, only an observer of this overwhelming pride for a football team on Saturdays. I have the utmost pride in UC Irvine and will never let anyone take that away. However, the few times I ever felt disappointed in my school was when I experienced a few Saturdays at football schools such as UC Berkeley and UCLA.
The emotional attachment that students express for their team is so undeniably strong that I could not help but want it to happen to me every Saturday. Football brings the whole campus together and takes any dividing lines away in the name of touchdowns and interceptions. Imagine waking up and starting your day by tailgating in a parking lot flooded with other students all excited about the same thing – football.
If you have yet to experience this at another campus, I suggest doing it this fall. You will be truly amazed at how girls talk pass percentage and computer geeks paint their faces. You will be truly amazed at how much you want that excitement to be a part of your college life.
One of my best college memories is a Saturday in Berkeley where the Golden Bears won and I celebrated with just about the entire student body from noon to four in the morning. As a true Anteater would, I wore neutral colors and never once said I go to Berkeley, but it was enough for to get the hint. A football team can really change a college campus.
So, like thousands before me, I ask: why does UCI not have a football team? It would make the campus and community significantly better; Enrollment would go up every year and student participation within the campus would thrive; Social circles would expand and alumni would be more willing to contribute money and resources to the school. Not to mention, it would give all of us a team to really cheer for on a Saturday.
However, even with all of those potentially positive aspects of having a football team, there are numerous negative aspects as well. First off, any member of the administration would tell you the cost of a good football program is just not feasible. Others would say that with the large number of football powerhouses in California, recruiting would be so difficult that developing a solid program would take many years. A weak program would ultimately result in the student body not sustaining interest, especially on the Irvine campus.
The geography that makes up our campus is a big reason why interest in the team may not be able to match up to other schools. Irvine, to say the least, is not the hippest college town in America and it would be very difficult to build a strong fan base for students to feel a part of. If that were the case, it would eventually feel like a high school program and most kids would not bother going to the games.
It is difficult enough as is to generate buzz for our existing athletic programs.
Our volleyball team won the national title and in their following season did not see any real consistent increase in attendance or interest. Our baseball team was the Cinderella story of the College World Series two years ago and we could barely fill the pub this year when the team was on ESPN playing in the Super Regional. Could UCI ever really turn into a campus addicted to its Saturday football?
I honestly don’t know. At this point in my college career, I can only hope that one day it will. But for now, all I can do is live vicariously through the thousands of students across the country lucky enough to have a football team.
Lucky for us we get to be a part of an amazing research-based institute funded heavily with money that would have otherwise gone to a football team.
With that in mind, we should utilize those resources, become incredibly smart and get accepted into a grad school that does have a football team. Don’t believe the hype, believe the hypothesis.