Football to be added to ODU sports programs in 2009
May 31, 2006
What looked like third and long last summer has turned into an end-zone celebration: Old Dominion University officials today (May 31) announced the school will start a Division I-AA football program, with the first team taking the field in 2009.
More than 400 people packed the south end of Foreman Field to hear the announcement at what was billed as the university's "first tailgate of the century."
Clutching a football, Board of Visitors Rector James Hixon told the crowd, "ODU football will be returning to Foreman Field in 2009!"
President Roseann Runte said, "I am very pleased that we are moving ahead with a football program and we are doing it without making any compromises. Academic quality, other sports and Title IX will not be compromised.
"People have asked, `Why now?' There is always a question of time and place. The time has changed and the place - Old Dominion University - has changed. But what has also changed are the people. We have a very supportive mayor and city, a wonderful athletic director with considerable experience, students and alumni who have been very enthusiastic, and so many others whose talents, experience and eagerness will get this program off the ground."
The announcement culminated months of careful analysis and deliberation that began last summer when Runte and the Board of Visitors first tackled the issue of reviving football, after a more than six-decade absence. The board agreed to the possibility, provided three criteria were met: a consultant's report indicating community support for a program, the acquisition of land to meet practice and other athletic needs, and pledges of at least $8 million for a football endowment. The first criterion was met in December when consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers released a market assessment report indicating a wide and strong base of support for football, particularly among alumni.
The report also indicated that the university would undoubtedly meet its financial goals, and development officials have already raised more than $5 million prior to the start of an official campaign. Projected donations in the amount of $1.5 million a year, student fees, ticket sales and concessions will also help sustain the new program.
In April, an agreement was announced between the university and the city providing land to ODU for two football practice fields and additional women's sports teams.
"The opportunity to add football and three highly competitive sports for our female athletes is tremendously exciting," said Athletic Director Jim Jarrett. "I want to thank President Runte and the Board of Visitors for the significant financial support they are providing the athletic program."
According to Jarrett, the university will hire an assistant athletic director for football this fall and a head coach during the 2007-08 school year. Also, six full-time and one part-time assistant coaches will be hired. The first group of recruits, mostly freshmen and junior college students, will enter the university in fall 2008. Jarrett also noted that as many as 33 support people in ticketing, marketing, athletic training and other areas will be added over the next three years.
The university's football program will be a member of its current sports conference, the Colonial Athletic Association.
"The CAA is very excited about Old Dominion's announcement of football in 2009," said CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager. "ODU is guaranteed membership in CAA football, following the development of a transition plan, and will become the 13th member of arguably the most competitive I-AA league in the country. League membership will provide immediate opportunities to develop football rivalries with a number of ODU's historic athletic opponents."
The 20,000-seat Foreman Field, which was built in 1936, will be refurbished as the home stadium for the new football program. Bleacher seating will be replaced with stadium-style individual seats, suites will be added at the south end of the field, and a new building housing locker rooms will be constructed, among other renovations.
Currently, ODU's women's field hockey and lacrosse teams play at Foreman Field. Under the agreement with the city, the university will build a new field hockey/lacrosse stadium on city land near 38th Street and Powhatan Avenue. Old Dominion will lease the area, which will also be the site for two football practice fields, football locker rooms and training facilities, and a softball stadium.
To comply with Title IX requirements, Old Dominion will add women's crew in 2007-08, women's softball in 2010-11 and women's volleyball in 2014-15. There are also plans to add a marching band program.
During the May 31 event, Student Body President D'Ontae Sylvertooth said, "We are finally about to see thousands of students' dreams coming true. We will support this team wholeheartedly, just as we support our other teams. The students have wanted football for years, and we can't wait!"
Vice President for Institutional Advancement John R. Broderick told the crowd that those unfamiliar with Old Dominion's history might be surprised to learn that the school fielded a football team during its first 11 years of existence, when it was a two-year division of the College of William and Mary.
He noted that the program ended after the 1940 season due to poor attendance, a conference ruling that as a branch of W&M, the Norfolk Division team could not use freshmen, and a $10,000 debt. Coached by the legendary Tommy Scott, the Norfolk Division Braves closed out their record book with an overall mark of 62-19-4.
Original ODU football team members Johnnie Brown ('39), Joe Brichter ('39) and Louis "Hickey" Smith ('38) were on hand for the kick-off celebration.
The university also announced a football marketing deal with local Toyota dealers. This partnership is the first football sponsorship announced to-date and calls for Toyota to be incorporated into the football slogan that will be utillized on all marketing materials. In addtion, Toyota's partnership will directly assist in the advertising, promotion and ticket sales campaign associated with kick-off of ODU Football in 2009.