Discussion on Winthrop football program moves to town hall-style forum

Posted March 2, 2014 3:59 pm | Filed under Featured, Local News

winthrop-trustees-3-2-14Manning Kimmel | WRHI.com
It is a new era at Winthrop University.

Less than a year into her presidency, Jayne Marie Comstock is taking a topic many across the community have thought about — football — to a public discussion next week.

Comstock, who started in her new role July 1, will be inaugurated as Winthrop’s tenth president later this month. But football — a discussion her predecessor Anthony DiGiorgio tended to shy away from — is something she does not appear to be dodging.

“I’m excited about the fact that we have developed a campus conversation about his topic,” Comstock said after unveiling her plans to Winthrop’s Board of Trustees Sunday. “We’re moving this conversation forward to, now, a more public conversation.”

Comstock and her leadership team, which now includes Athletic Director Tom Hickman, have been studying the effects of new football programs at universities across the country. In all 12 institutions studied, each school saw an increase in enrollment and a higher percentage of male student applications. Comstock said Saturday she’s set a goal of increasing Winthrop’s size by about 1,000 students with a mix of traditional, graduate and online courses.

Winthrop’s Board of Trustees will meet again in May — with a vote possibly taking place at that time.

The months-long study also produced new financial figures for how much a football program would cost. Estimates for the first year came in at $11.8 million, which includes building an $11 million support facility. Annual operations and personnel costs were estimated between $1.4 and $1.7 million.

That’s significantly less than the results of a 2007 study under the DiGiorgio administration. At the time, startup costs were estimated to be $18 million. DiGiorgio quickly announced those funds would have to come from the community. Comstock, however, offered a different perspective.

“Going forward makes sense,” she said. “We need the next layer of information that would have to do with economic development…and a fundraising feasibility study to determine if we have the community and Winthrop friends’ support to make it financially viable.”

The campus-wide discussion will be at 11 a.m. on March 13 in the DiGiorgio Student Center.

“I’m glad the conversation is moving forward,” Comstock said. “I think we need a decision so we can know where the future lies.”