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UNO Club Football
Is the University of New Orleans ready for some football?
The murmurs from the Lakefront have been the strongest they have been in sometime as New Orleans athletic director Tim Duncan shared with Extra Points columnist Matt Brown that a feasibility study had been conducted.
The feasibility study, commissioned and paid for by the UNO Foundation, was conducted this past September by Collegiate Consulting. I obtained a copy of a draft of the study which can be seen here via a FOIA request.
For the realignment diehards amongst us, this consulting firm is no stranger to participating in helping institutions and conferences navigate changes at the low-to-mid major level of NCAA Division I athletics.
This includes providing a conference membership study that helped manufacture the departure of the “Texas 4” (Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin) from the Southland Conference to the Western Athletic Conference.
For the football crowd, Collegiate Consulting recently completed Chicago State’s look into adding the sport as they examine potential conference homes.
Soccer
What sports are we talking about and how much will it cost? 
One of the keys to this study is examining the finances behind where the university is heading over a five-year period.
Though the timeline can easily be adjusted with the dollars staying relatively similar, the hypothetical timeline presented in the study has the Privateers contesting full Southland Conference football and women’s soccer schedules in 2024.
The football team in this scenario would also take part in a ‘practice year’ during the 2023-24 academic calendar year.
Over the span of five years, Collegiate Consulting projects a $4.3M increase in UNO’s athletic budget with more than $1.4M of that cost deriving from the maximum of 77 scholarships between the new sports.
The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) for which the Southland is a part of allows institutions the equivalent of 63 scholarships while women’s soccer at the Division I level accounts for 14 scholarships.
In both sports, scholarships can be divided as a coaching staffs see fit in much the same way fans may be accustomed to baseball scholarships. Only at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level do schools provide full scholarships to its student-athletes in football.
The other major costs associated are increases in sports operations, administrative operations, administrative salaries and coaching salaries. Football equipment, insurance and athletic training see the largest gains amongst football-related categories.
In totality, Collegiate Consulting recommends six full-time positions and one part-time position be added to the UNO athletic department – academic coordinator, marketing & ticketing manager, assistant sports information director, assistant director of facilities, an assistant athletic trainer and a full-time and part-time assistant strength and conditioning coach.
The football coaching staff would over time amass to a head coach, two coordinators, eight other full-time assistants, a graduate assistant and equipment manager.
The women’s soccer program would consist of a head coach and an assistant coach.
Both programs would not hire all coaches at once as they build up to the start of their programs. The total salaries for the additions would amount to over $1M by the end of the five-year pro forma with the head football coach with a projected salary at $223k leading the way.
University Center
Where does the revenue come from? 
Multiple sources at the university have shared that plans are underway to get the student body support for adding the two sports plus a marching band by way of a campus wide vote.
Though there is no reference to a marching band in the study, Collegiate Consulting indicates that the student fees could account for $700k of the revenue needed to cover the $4.3M increase in the athletic budget.
Additional monies by the end of the pro forma indicate funds from direct institutional support ($1.13M) would be joined by ticket revenue ($250k), game guarantees ($1.1M), program revenue from corporate sponsorships and similar ($800k) and NCAA/conference revenues ($380k).
Based on recent game guarantee payouts to FCS opponents, the Privateers would either need to play two ‘Power 5’ opponents annually as part of their schedule or find three FBS games to reach the $1.1M in game guarantees.
FCS schools are allowed 11 regular season contests, except in years where an extra week exists between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Those years enable programs to play 12 games.
Troy Green
What else does the study show? 
The rest of the study is consistent with other feasibility studies of this nature.
In studying schools that have added football in the last 20 years, Division I programs that have started the sport on average see a 2% ‘year after’ increase in enrollment with gains on average ‘since the start of football’ accounting for a 37% gain over their enrollment prior to football.
Budget and sport sponsorship comparisons were made to both the Southland and Sun Belt.
This study conducted while accounting for the University of the Incarnate Word which will be joining the Western Athletic Conference indicates that the average Southland institution generates $3.72 million across all revenue streams.
Most notably, the average Southland institution has football operating expenses totaling $895,573. McNeese State has the largest operating expenses at $1.13 million. Southeastern Louisiana University has the second-largest expenses at $1.06. Nicholls State University has the lowest operating expenses at just below $700,000. All three Louisiana schools are members of the University of Louisiana system which similarly serves as home to UNO.

So what was lacking in the study?
For one, this was a draft and the executive summary was missing.
Otherwise, the most significant absence was a deep dive into where the Privateers will play these two sports.
Tad Gormley at City Park, which at one point hosted the Privateers’ club football team has often been mentioned as a potential location for Division I football. Tulane most recently played a game at the stadium in 2008.
Ample space on the eastern perimeter of the main campus adjacent to the Human Performance Center (HPC), as well as on the nearby Lakefront campus, could provide land for both programs.
The Lakefront campus, located down the street from the main campus of the University, is currently home to Lakefront Arena, the University Tennis Center and the baseball team’s Maestri Field.
Beyond the facility question, others may also be curious to examine where the program would fall in comparison to the non-scholarship Pioneer League. A FCS football league that spans coast-to-coast, the Pioneer was explored during UNO’s prior examination into football over 20 years ago.
The difference now is that while the Pioneer in recent years was able to secure an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, the Privateers are in a conference that requires its members to compete in the league when it has a sport that aligns with the conference’s sport sponsorship. This bylaw was enacted by the Southland following membership changes in the mid-2000s when ULM contested all sports sans football in the conference.
Tim Duncan, UNO AD introduction
And what’s next? 
Information related to the facilities aside, UNO leadership is largely armed with what it will cost to field an NCAA Division I football and women’s soccer program on top of its current offerings.
Beside the quest of the Privateer diehards in knowing what it would take to bring football to varsity status, the biggest question over the years is how football could be achieved while there was a lack of cohesion between the university administration and the athletic department.
That issue is resolved as the current bonds between the two appear stronger than ever.
A former student-athlete at Memphis, Duncan has embraced every opportunity to get involved on campus since arriving in 2019 as the athletic director while working to build relationships with the community.
Duncan’s first 100 days on campus featured an aggressive campaign to establish roots in New Orleans by meeting with many local leaders, which is critical for anyone without deep ties to the Crescent City.
UNO president John Nicklow is a former football player at Bucknell and spent time as an administrator at Southern Illinois, a school that plays FCS football. He has exhibited he understands the role that athletics plays on a college campus and has no problem sharing that position. Following recent successful fundraising on the academic end for the school, Nicklow can cement his legacy by adding football.
With this cohesion and drive, the University of New Orleans may have finally found the partnership it needs to reach the end zone in not only raising the funds that would bring these two teams to the playing field, but also completely changing the culture of the university forever.
NOTE: Jason Plotkin served as a Sports Information Director at the University of New Orleans from 2007 to 2013.
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