Francis Marion University has accomplished much in its athletic department in the 42 years of the school’s existence. The university has produced five national championships and has won more than 50 conference or district championships.
The university currently sponsors a dozen intercollegiate sports: six each for men (baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis) and women (basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball).
But the sport that receives the most conversation is a sport in which FMU does not even compete: football.
Football is by far the most watched and most popular sport in the United States. Every Saturday in the fall, obsessed fans from all walks of life and from all over the country congregate at stadiums, bars and around their televisions to watch college football. And on Sundays, the National Football League dominates TV ratings. But these facts are not enough to convince the powers that be that FMU should have a football team.
According to Director of Athletics Murray Hartzler and Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations and Marketing Michael Hawkins, there is one primary reason FMU does not have a football team: finances.
“There is so much that would have to be done,” Hawkins said. “To finance a football team, we would need proper fitness facilities, new training facilities, a brand new coaching staff–including a new coach and several assistant coaches–and a brand new administrative staff, including another sports information director and a new secretary.”
Hawkins said that if FMU had a football team, the school would need a stadium. He also said that he doubted FMU students would take kindly to a considerable increase in fees to help support a new football team.
Meanwhile, many Francis Marion students see nothing but positives to the school having a football team. Junior mass communication major Jessica Wright is one of those students.
“Having a football team would give the students a feeling of pride,” Wright said. “I believe it would bring the students closer together. It would give us more to do on the weekends than just going home.”
The mass communication major said she did not believe students would mind paying more university fees to support a football team.
Sophomore business major and FMU point guard Clayton Williams agreed with Wright.
“A football team would be ideal,” Williams said.
Williams also said that having a football team would do great things for his basketball squad.
“Having a football team can only benefit every other sport,” Williams said. “If fans support the football team, it means we’ll have more support at our games.”
Unlike Wright, however, Williams said that having to pay more money would make him think twice about supporting a football club.
“Paying more would make me hesitant,” Williams said. “But for me the question is: is it worth it? I believe it is.”
Hawkins said that another factor into the decision is the support that many FMU students give to USC and Clemson University football.
“In a state dominated by USC and Clemson football, would our students and people in Florence really rally together to support a football team, or would they still pack up their things and drive to Columbia or Clemson every weekend?” Hawkins asked.
Williams and Wright were confident that if FMU had a football team, South Carolina and Clemson fans in Florence would transfer that support to a Patriots pigskin club.
So while many students and supporters of FMU athletics continue to gripe about the need for Francis Marion to have a football team, the reality is there will be no college football in Florence in the foreseeable future.