The future of Chico State football doesn’t look too bright

Let’s take a trip back in time— back to 1996 when Chico State played its final game against Sonoma State and won 25-20. The following year, the football program was cut. It was hard for the loyal students, players, coaches, faculty and alumni to come to terms with the fact that football had been taken away from them and even harder to believe that it was because of funding problems.

Anita Barker, Athletic director. Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics.

Chico State’s current athletic director, Anita Barker, explained why the program was terminated 18 years ago.

“The decision in 1997 to eliminate football was a result of the changes that happened in the NCAA nationally and the decline of NCAA Division II football in the western part of the United States,” Barker said.

She also commented on how during that time period, there were only four institutions west of the Rocky Mountains that sponsored Division II football. Even now almost 20 years later, there are less than 10 Division II football programs and only five within reasonable proximity to Chico in regards to traveling, Barker said.

The main reason for the cancellation of the program was funding.

“Chico State did not have adequate funding in 1997 to continue a football program and comply with scheduling requirements and other compliance matters affecting all sports, including gender equity,” Barker said. “Still today, membership in the CCAA without football is appropriate to our campus funding and facility model.”

We know the reasons why Chico State doesn’t have a football program, but let’s imagine a perfect world where Chico State students would be headed to University Field every other Friday night to cheer on the Wildcats.

The Orion investigated other school’s athletic department revenues and expenses that have similar-sized student populations as Chico State.

According to the numbers in an athletic report Humboldt State provided for 2014, the total expenses for its football team came out to be $1,042,804 and its revenues the same amount. Humboldt State has a much smaller student population of 8,116 compared to Chico State’s 17,287, but they shared the same league back in the days of Chico State football.

When Chico State did have a football team, they were part of a Northern-California conference. They played against teams that either had a much larger student population or a drastically smaller one.

Fresno State has a student population of 23,060 about 6,000 more than Chico State. According to its University Auxiliary report, the expenses for its football team in 2014 came out to $2,773,420 and revenues were $3,616,786.

Chico falls in the middle of these schools in regards to population size, so going strictly off the numbers, a smaller school such as Humboldt State that has almost 9,000 less students can have a football team and break even with revenues and expenses. On the opposite side of the gridiron, a school like Fresno State that has a larger student population with about 6,000 more students ended up profiting as its revenues exceeded expenses by $843,366.

Will Wildcats football ever return to University Field? Only time will tell.

Jason Spies can be reached at [email protected] or @Jason_Spies on Twitter.