02 May, 2008

Football's Future at Salem State College

Salem State College has been making leaps and bounds in the past few years. It has added new dorms on Central Campus, acquired new parking for commuter students off of Canal Street, and has begun construction on new athletic fields behind the new dorms. All of these additions have greatly improved student life on campus, but some associated with the college still feel something is missing.

"What's Homecoming Weekend without a football game?" is the question asked by Salem State College Trustee Howard Wayne as he spearheads the campaign to create a Viking's Football team. This is a question that has been echoed across Salem State for years, and though it is well received, it seems to be no closer to reality. The process, which could involve the widening of Alumni Field, the expanding of the current field house, and the possible construction of a private training facility, is in the early stages of planning but would ultimately cost the school 'millions of dollars' to complete according to Salem State College Athletic Director and Women's basketball head coach Tim Shea.

AD Shea sees an on campus field as the right way to have a team. "The best programs are the ones that play on campus," Mr. Shea said. This feeling is evident presently in the construction of a baseball field on Central Campus to bring the Viking's baseball team on school grounds. In the past, they have had to share a field with Salem High school and play their games at Palmer Cove field in Salem's 'Point' neighborhood. Mr. Shea went on to say, "If we are going to add a program, we would like to do it in a way that they have a reasonable chance for success." This success would come at great expenses to the school.

On top of the renovations and constructions, a football team would require an initial $200,000 for equipment (blocking sleds, uniforms, pads, helmets...) as well as $65,000 annually for training supplies and regular team upgrades. These costs do not include the salaries for the staff that would need to be hired to make the team successful. The staff would have to include coaches (more than any team currently on campus), a personal equipment manager, a team secretary, and possibly more janitorial and training staffers to accommodate a team of 80-90 players (the lacrosse team currently has the most players per team, with around 30).

This influx of athletes also creates a problem in what AD Shea called "gender equity." This is the need for the College to keep a balance of men's and women's programs. Creating a football team would require Salem State to improve it's women's athletic programs also, to keep the two on an even keel. This can been seen in the Viking's lacrosse programs. Since the Men's Lacrosse team has been promoted to Division III status, the athletic department has brought back the Women's Club Lacrosse program to balance the scales, a football team would need the same counter element (Women's Hockey is one of the possible additions). The addition of a football team will ultimately require a recommendation from then school's new president Dr. Patricia Maguire Meservey, with advice from her staff and the Board of Trustees, to move forward. "I'm real passionate about the idea," said Trustee Wayne, "I feel football is the natural unifier for current students and our Alumni."

No comments: