By Ray Hamill — Local sports fans were reminded this week of what we lost when the Humboldt State football program was taken away, while the school administration got a reminder of the lingering problems it faces in the wake of that fateful choice.
In short, the drastic enrollment problems HSU is facing this fall are compounded by having no football team at the school.
Just a few days after Lumberjack legends Alex Cappa and Ja’Quan Gardner were both named to the D2Football.com‘s team of the decade, reminding us of the glory days, the university issued a press release saying it is preparing for an enrollment drop of around 20 percent for the fall and perhaps even more going forward.
The school also announced it is expecting a budget cut of around $20 million by the 2022 fiscal year, all of this in the wake of COVID-19.
While we can hardly claim that having a football team at HSU would have prevented a dire aftermath from the current global crisis we’re all facing, it’s also hardly a stretch to suggest having the team would have limited these problems for Humboldt State.
It’s not just the pandemic’s fault, and before any of this transpired the university was already expecting an enrollment drop for total students of around 14 percent for the fall.
There is no doubt eliminating the football team has played a part in that.
When the former administration made the decision to get rid of the football program, a near century-old sporting tradition was taken away, something that can’t be quantified in mere dollars and cents.
Not having between 100 and 120 football players on campus this fall, however, can be quantified in dollars and cents, and it hurts the university’s enrollment in more ways than just not having 120 players enrolled.
Football gave Humboldt State an identity.
It also gave the university more diversity, made it a more comfortable environment for minorities, and it provided name recognition and an endless free source of advertising to sell the school to a massive pool of potential students all around the state.
All of which would help a declining enrollment, which remains the biggest concern for the local institution.
Remember, not only did football players come to Humboldt State from all over California, but so did their families and friends and teammates.
Not having the program also hurts the local economy, something that cannot be overstated and something that will be felt even more so this fall as small businesses county wide struggle to remain afloat.
No more game days. No more families and alumni coming to town for the weekends and spending their money here. No more visiting teams and fans. No more recruits and their families visiting.
In addition, if you have 20 percent less students at Humboldt State, that’s 20 percent less students injecting money into the local economy and restaurants, and 20 percent less families visiting the area multiple times a year.
It is ironic that a university desperately in search of a unique identity to sell itself around the state and within the CCAA should miss the point staring them in the face.
Football gave Humboldt State that unique identity.
It was predicted by many that the elimination of football would have a detrimental effect on the university’s enrollment, and we see little in the wake of the decision to sway that opinion.
And now, that’s just going to compound the expected effects of COVID-19.