Submitted by Anthony Plazola
During the fall season, millions spend Saturdays painting their faces, tailgating, singing fight songs, playing backyard games, drinking alcohol and cheering on their college football team. With 893 universities across the country, football is intertwined with the American college experience for students, alumni and entire fan communities.
For many incoming freshmen and international students, the college experience in the States means living the rituals and culture of a Saturday during college football season. That expectation, however, is not met by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB): it does not have a football program.
Football programs have demonstrated many positive impacts on their universities. They generate lucrative advertising and television deals, provide brand exposure and increase enrollment numbers. If these are positive consequences in addition to the students’ spirit and engagement, why does CSUMB, a 28-year-old institution, not have a football program?
CSUMB Athletic Director Kirby Garry reveals that “there is no one to play.” Garry points to the fact that there are only three Division II football schools in the West region, the same region CSUMB is located in — two in the upper northwest (Western Oregon and Central Washington) and one in Canada (Simon Fraser).
CSUMB is a Division II school with 13 varsity sports, five mens and eight womens and competes in 14 intercollegiate varsity sports. Despite performing at this level, CSUMB is not one of the 169 Division II schools with a football program.
Football programs in Division II can give out 36 scholarships. While Division II football programs do not bring in as much money as Division I football programs, they can still bring in millions of dollars.
In 2021, CSUMB partnered with the new Monterey Bay Football Club, a professional team connected to the United Soccer League. This move to bring professional soccer to the Peninsula does not replace the experience that football fans yearn for. However, it helps to bring the community together when the team plays at the CSUMB campus venue, which opened in May 2022 and was renamed Cardinale Stadium. As this partnership continues, its success may pave the way for the next generation of sports fans at CSUMB and beyond.