COLUMN: Eastern should drop its football program

Eugene is the Sports Editor for the Eastern Echo. He can be heard every week on the Eastern Echo Sports Podcast with Managing Editor Al Willman. You can find the podcast on SoundCloud or by searching for it on iTunes.

There comes a time in life where one must realize when a situation is so inoperable that you have to pull the plug on it, even if you don’t want to.

Year in and year out, money continues to be wasted on a program in which virtually no one shows up to watch unless it is homecoming or opening weekend (when most of the crowd are the incoming freshmen class and their parents).

Heck, the only reason most fans showed up for homecoming was for the halftime ceremony where they crown the king and queen.

Trust me, I saw first hand as nearly half of the crowd at the homecoming game against Ball State University take its ball and go home after the king and queen were announced.

I realized then that most people have little to no interest in Eastern Michigan University football and it is a shame.

If I were a betting man, as many people would show up at Rynearson Stadium to see a homecoming ceremony exclusively without watching a football game.

Heck, I realized on that day that Rynearson Stadium may never sell out for an EMU football game.

Take Saturday’s game against Western Michigan University where 2,177 fans attended out of 30,200 possible seats.

That is 7.2 percent who showed up for the game and is less than 1/10 of a full crowd if you want to break things down from a fractional perspective.

Imagine for example if you ate 7.2 percent of a hamburger and then realize that your stomach growling for more. Ultimately, it equals next to nothing in terms of filling you up.

Former Echo writer Joseph Yelick did a story back in September 2011 about the Pepsi Company’s contract with EMU.

emu_fb_should_be_dropped_jamil_khalid
By Jamil Khalid / The Eastern Echo

Pepsi signed a contract back with EMU in 2008, which included annual payments of $2.3 million over 10 years with a percentage share of vending revenue.

Additionally, it pays $150,000 annually for EMU home football games every other year.

“Pepsi pays that amount even if EMU does not request Pepsi to pay for tickets,” EMU Chief Financial Officer John Lumm said back in 2011. “The tickets are [usually] distributed to local area schools.”

Sure, you can fool the national media with the belief that EMU Football draws, but in reality, few people care and most of them go up the street to root for the maize and blue (the University of Michigan for those who may not be familiar).

The painful reality is despite the firing last Friday, Ron English is still the highest paid employee at EMU with a base salary of $349,937.

The university must pay him the remainder of his contract until Dec. 31, 2013.

With all due respect, EMU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Heather Lyke had no choice but to relieve English of his duties or else be subjected to criticism from almost everyone for not doing anything.

I commend her for making the right move, but most people know that English should have been fired earlier in the season after the Army game.

Heck, I never got a reply back from her as to why no decision had been made on English’s coaching future.

The lack of decision-making shows how much EMU Football is thought of in the community and that is none.

Imagine for a second, if a professor performed below expectations for a calendar school year, do you think they would retain its job status?

At day’s end, there are better things to do with the $2.47 million in the football budget instead of wasting it away with a sub-par product that is frowned upon and only grabs national headlines when negative things happen at best.

A plethora of things can be done like renovating the Jones and Goddard residence halls that were shut down in 2005 or so, giving more scholarship money to students who actually work hard and have a positive influence on the campus or even build a new parking structure to help with the influx of freshmen enrolling.

As I finish typing, here is some food for thought: According to http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2012/12/college_football_regular-seaso.html, EMU finished last in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season with an average attendance of 3,923— an eight percent decrease. The next nearest team is the University of Akron with 9,275— a 41 percent decrease.

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Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsGuy.


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