Faculty and students are calling for Eastern Michigan to drop Division I football

Publish date:

A report issued by Eastern Michigan's faculty and students has called for the Eagles to leave the Mid-American Conference to join the Horizon League in non-football sports while moving to Division II or Division III in football.

"Culturally and geographically, EMU football will simply never succeed from an attendance and financial standpoint," faculty member Howard Bunsis argued to EMU's Board of Regents on Friday, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It is a losing proposition – always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane.

"This has nothing to do with our performance on the field, or the quality of our coaches. Our coaches are good people and dedicated professionals. They are fighting a losing battle that cannot be won. Each and every one of you needs to reassess why you are here; if you have any sense of what is right for EMU, you will drop EMU from Division I football as soon as possible. How can you sit there and justify throwing millions of dollars away?"

The financial figures at Eastern Michigan do not paint a pretty picture: students pay $917 in fees annually to support EMU athletics, part of a $27 million subsidy the university provides to fund the Eagles' $34 million athletics budget. The subsidy is the largest in the MAC and among the largest in Division I. Eastern Michigan's $34 million athletics budget represents eight percent of the school's overall spending.

The report states Eastern Michigan's spending has increased from $25 million in 2005 to $34 million a decade later while revenue dropped from $10 million to $7 million over that span. Eastern Michigan was also the subject of an "HBO Real Sports" report on spending in college sports.

On the field, Eastern Michigan has won more than five games just once since 1996 and hasn't appeared in a bowl since 1987.

"The option of EMU dropping sports completely is not one that we support," the report says. "Though athletics is a significant drain on resources, and increases tuition for students and their families, the loss of tuition revenue from students in the non-revenue sports could hurt EMU financially, and moves us away from important values of teamwork, discipline, and community.

"Eastern Michigan should drop Division I football, and join the Horizon League, where football is not required. Alternatively, EMU can still play football, but at the Division II or Division III (non-scholarship) level within the Horizon League, which would save even more resources. The advantage of joining the Horizon League is EMU athletes could still compete at the Division I level in Olympic and other non-revenue sports, but spend much less."

NCAA rules state Eastern Michigan could not compete in Division III for football while remaining in Division I for all other sports, so Division II would have to be where the Eagles moved should a change take place.

EMU board chairman Mike Morris released a statement on behalf of the university that essentially states the school has seen the report and declines further comment.

"Participating in Division 1 athletics is a substantial financial investment – not only at Eastern, but also at every university that offers a Division 1 program. It is an investment we are committed to because of the benefits athletics provides our institution and students. At the same time, the university is committed to an ongoing evaluation of the best possible use of resources in all operating areas, including athletics."

Meanwhile, Chris Creighton and his staff are working to build a program that will compete in the MAC -- until told otherwise.