Chico State’s unfortunate football program history


Chico State running back Glenn Witherspoon takes a handoff during the 1987 season. Image from The Orion vault.

Each fall when college football makes its return, Chico State students can’t help but wonder why the Wildcats don’t have a team to partake in the competition. While there isn’t one concrete reason the university discontinued the program there are a few signs as to what led to it happening.

Nov. 16, 2019 will mark 23 years since Chico State’s last football game. Then-President Manuel A. Esteban put out a press release regretfully informing students and faculty of the program’s end.

One of the key factors in the university’s decision to end the program was due to the conference change that year. The Wildcats were a part of the Northern California Athletic Conference (NCAC) but when the conference shrank to only two teams, Chico State decided to switch to the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) which doesn’t offer football for any of its schools.

The conference change made it especially difficult for Chico to travel to their away games as all of their opponents were so far. This would have led to increasing travel costs added to the already strained budget.

According to the fact sheet released by Chico State, football would cost Chico State a quarter of a million dollars a year and it would be even harder to fund than in years prior.

Another issue that came into play was compliance to the Title IX policy regarding gender equity. Title IX measures that both women’s and men’s sports get the same resources, facilities, etc. to give same opportunity to both athletic programs. There could be variation within the programs, but they have to be justified.

As the costs for the football program rose, these particular Title IX regulations became harder to follow, especially with women’s sports.

While the program’s end was abrupt, the university did its best to accommodate the students and coaches that were affected by the decision. In the press release, Esteban stated that the school was going to help students transfer to other schools and honor the contracts of the coaches and team staff.

Sports information director Luke Reid said that he has not heard anything about a possible return of a football program for any CSU campus.

“In fact, Humboldt State recently discontinued its football program leaving only Azusa Pacific among Division II programs in California,” Reid said.

It seems for now, we shouldn’t have any expectations for the program to make a return.

Matthew Ferreira can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.