The college football scene is hard to ignore in Utah. With the University of Utah’s football program debuting in the Pac-12 Conference this fall and renowned BYU quarterback Jake Heaps returning for the Cougars, Division I football is as big as ever in the Beehive State.
With all the attention that football gets, it’s easy to see why some at Salt Lake Community College wonder why we don’t have a football program here. SLCC’s Athletic Director Norma Carr has answers, and she knows well the roadblocks that make building a football program so tough—especially at a 2-year college.
“It would be very problematic to get football at this time for various reasons,” said Carr, who has been with SLCC for 23 years. “First, we don’t have adequate facilities for football. If we did bring football on, we would have to build locker rooms, storage rooms and other facilities that would be needed for the team.”
The “other facilities” that Carr speaks of most notably include an adequate stadium. While there’s a lot of grassy space west of the Lifetime Activities Center on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, that field is used for soccer and is inadequate for hosting college football.
“The west field isn’t compatible for both sports,” Carr said. “We would probably have to look at playing in high school facilities and would never have a home field. We would be traveling from place to place and always be on the road.”
Without a consistent place to play, it would likely be harder to drum up student and community support for Bruin football. With equipment to buy and maintain, eligibility for 60 football players to monitor, and the cost of bringing on security, concessions, coaching and training staff, the financial reality of bringing on the sport of football is staggering.
“The expenses are huge. How many guys will tape their ankles, how will we house them?” said Carr, a former Ute softball coach. “You just can’t put three football players in one room. How do you feed those guys, transport those guys? There’s a lot to it – it’s like taking the present budget we have and using that just for football in order to do it right.”
Since sponsorships are at a premium in a down economy, Carr believes they’d be tough for SLCC to obtain, especially right now. The idea of “Valley Fair Mall Field” or something of the sort may seem feasible, but it would be a tough sell at best given the circumstances.
“I think that football can attract sponsorships sometimes easier than other sports. Pima Community College in Arizona started a program and that’s what they found,” Carr said. “For us in the Salt Lake Valley, it’s tough for us to get anybody’s attention, period. With today’s economy I think it would be tough for us to come up with sponsorships that would help us that much.”
While running a football program at a two-year institution isn’t easy, there are some community colleges that prove it isn’t impossible. One of SLCC’s division rivals, Snow College, has a highly successful and often nationally ranked football program out in the small city of Ephraim.
“How Snow does it, and I wouldn’t want to do this to our team if we had one, is to get on the bus and drive all night to avoid the hotel costs,” said Carr. “They get out and play, get on the bus, and drive home. They sleep on the bus, in the racks, on the floor – that’s wanting badly to play.”
Carr concedes that at least Snow has a program, and that Badger football is pretty successful. She also notes that the team gets a lot of community and student support because it’s easily the biggest athletic show in town, whereas in the Salt Lake Valley there are Division I programs like Utah and BYU for fans to go see.
The obstacles in front of football at SLCC aren’t limited solely to the financial aspect. Logistically, there are some difficulties that make bringing football to the institution even less likely. Snow College is the only school in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) where SLCC competes that has a football program, so there aren’t many options as far as competition goes.
“If people want to talk football, we can also talk wrestling. I know that there are a lot of football guys that simply don’t have any place to go,” said Carr. “There are also plenty of wrestlers that don’t have any place to go – but it’s the same thing as football, there’s nobody to wrestle.”
North Idaho College is the only school in the SWAC with a wrestling program, which presents a similar problem for the future hopes of bringing wrestling to SLCC as well.
In addition to the financial and logistical questions presented by bringing football on at SLCC, there’s the underlying concern of whether or not the student body and community would embrace and support it. Turnout for Bruins home games is usually meager in comparison to other schools in the conference, so there isn’t a lot of reason to believe that students would show up for football games, either.
“The turnout we’re getting doesn’t really affect my thought process when it comes to football at all,” said Carr, who has been a key contributor to the promotion of women’s sports in Utah. “I like football, I enjoy watching the game, but the indication made to me when I was brought on is that we’d never have football.”
Another challenge facing Bruin football is equality. Colleges must make every attempt to have athletic programs that reflect their student populations. For instance, if 51 percent of SLCC’s students are women, then it would be unethical and against the rules for the school to have way more male athletes than female athletes in their programs.
This is challenging, because if Carr brings the sport of football to SLCC, she’s got to add sports that balance the scales and give an equal amount of opportunities to female athletes. To put that into perspective, a football roster often consists of 60 or more players, whereas a basketball roster would be capped at 15. To bring football on, Carr may have to add up to three women’s sports as well.
“If there’s one major positive that football brings, it’s exposure,” Carr said. “Who knows – things change, administrations change. I just don’t see it happening any time in the near future.”
When push comes to shove, it looks like it’ll be a while before we find out just how football would do here at SLCC. Until then, there are some great sports to follow here, and students can do just that at slccbruins.com.