The sport of college football continues to grow as more and more colleges and universities see the benefit of playing football. This upcoming season, a record number of college and university football programs will play football. According to the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame, a grand total of 778 college football teams will play across all levels of the sport, from FBS and FCS to Division 2, Division 3, and the NAIA.
The numbers continue to be staggering in an era of the sport where the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow wider. A total of 182 programs have been added to the college football map since 1978, with an average of 4.7 programs being added per year. This year will see seven new programs; Allen University (NAIA; Columbia, SC), Alvernia University (Division 3; Reading, PA), Indiana Wesleyan University (NAIA; Marion, IN), Keiser University (NAIA; West Palm Beach, FL), Lawrence Technological University (NAIA; Southfield, MI), Ottawa University-Arizona (NAIA; Surprise, AZ), and University of New England (Division 3; Biddeford, ME).
Four additional programs will launch for the 2019 and 2020 seasons as well; Clarke University (NAIA; Dubuque, IA), Franklin Pierce University (Division 2; Rindge, NH), Wheeling Jesuit University (Division 2; Wheeling, WV), Barton College (Division 2 in 2020; Wilson, NC), and Keystone College (Division 3 in 2020; La Plume, PA).
For every few schools that join the college football world, there are some casualties along the way. In the past six years, 35 new programs have been launched, but 11 have been dropped. It’s worth noting those figures include UAB, which shut down its football program after the 2014 season but returned last fall. Unfortunately, not every program makes a comeback the way UAB has.
Naturally, there will be more college football programs coming in the years to come as well. According to the National Football Foundation, at least 20 schools have committees organized to explore the possibility of adding football to their program. Doing so involves a hefty financial commitment, and not every school will find that investment worth the risk. Every school has a different set of parameters, but among the common concerns tend to be the local interest from students, alums, and the local community. And more importantly, will it be financially stable to stand and provide a benefit to advertising for the entire college or university?