When next year’s SGA president, sophomore Lee Hicks, answered questions from a student audience and the SGA executive board in the annual presidential debate, he expressed his plans for leadership in the year ahead and confronted Radford University’s biggest challenge: spirit.
“I have three main points,” Hicks said. “One, is to increase school spirit, two, is to increase a better sense of community both on and off campus, and three, is to improve the communication between faculty and students.”
Hicks felt as though his most important initiative would be to bring back the spirit in Radford. And it was no surprise that participation was his topic of concern, because few students chose to show up for the event. He used this point as an example to sell his solution: a football team.
“I feel that getting a football team would increase school spirit, which was initiative number one, and then also create a better since of community, which was initiative number two. I can’t really think of any other way that I can try and have one program and one thing that I would be able to have a two and one bundle,” he said.
Creating a football team, Hicks believes, would help curve the image that the school has had for so long.
“As opposed to being the ‘party’ school, we’ll be the football school,” he said.
In 2008, Radford kicked off its first club football team. The organization gained significant support and served as a possible preview as to what could become of Radford if the team is redefined into a collegiate team. The problem, however, would be winning over those who may oppose the idea.
“Administration doesn’t exactly like the idea of having a football team,” Hicks said.
Some faculty agree that the motion could be financially exhausting, not to mention somewhat unnecessary at this point in time.
“I don’t know that spirit revolves around having football,” said Radford’s Athletic Director Robert Lineburg. “Football, those six Saturdays in the fall, can certainly add a lot to campus life, and I don’t think that anyone who’s been on a campus won’t acknowledge that it’s a pretty cool thing. The problem with starting football is just it’s so expensive.”
Lineburg estimates that starting up a real football team could top as much as $20 million, and that’s just the foundation. Money would have to come from a combination of things, including student fees, which would fund for scholarships, infrastructures, field houses, weight rooms, a stadium and all other football extremities.
“You would almost need an anchor donor right away to say, ‘I’ll fund this with $10 million to get it off the ground,’” Lineburg said.
In recent years, however, schools who have added a football team in Virginia were able to beat the financial odds. For example, Old Dominion University successfully implemented a football team into their athletics in 2009. The money they spent in the beginning came back through ticket sales, concessions, parking tickets, and sponsorships.
Lineburg acknowledged ODU’s achievement, but he also believed that it was in part drawn by the university’s regional advantage out in Tidewater. Radford may be more of a challenge because of its location.
“I can’t emphasize enough that in this economy it’s just difficult,” he said.
He has not completely dismissed the idea, but he does ask that those who support Radford football look at both sides of the story.
“Is football something that would never be explored at Radford? No. I think we are always looking for ways to better our school, but until we can fund it accordingly, it’s going to be tough,” Lineburg said.
Despite administration’s uncertainty, Hicks saw potential in the future of Radford. He felt the project was possible and should be going into practice now. After all, why wait till tomorrow when you could always start today?
It’s no secret that many students stand beside Hicks’ plan, either. Some seniors, in particular, have felt an absence of school pride since their first semesters.
“I’ve seen a fluctuation in spirit since I’ve been here,” said Senior Alexander Filicko.
He has trouble imagining Radford as an ordinary school.
“We can’t relate to other schools other than basketball,” he said.
Senior Ray Chambers also saw football as a step forward.
“I feel like if our sports were a little better, the school spirit would be a little better. Football would be an awesome addition,” said Chambers.
Last year’s SGA President Senior Randi-Lyn Randall felt confident that Hicks and his new executive team would be successful in their journey to find spirit, even if it meant not having a football team.
“What’s cool is that they’re not seniors, so they’re going to be able to run again and then again. It’s going to provide a foundation that they can build on and not so much turn-over year after year,” Randall said.
“He’ll be here the whole the summer, which is really exciting. He’ll have more of a direction of who to go to, what to talk to them about, and be able to build that relationship sooner than I was,” said Randall. “And that’s going to be huge next year just because they’ll have that relationship with administration before the school year starts.”
Hicks has promised to work with faculty to give the students of Radford University a chance to be heard.
“If the administration says no, but the students still want it, I will fight tooth and nail to get it. Even if it means I have to walk into Richmond myself,” said Hicks.
He has already laid out his approach for his plan during his presidency, in which he would immediately start working this summer when his term begins.
“Like any investment, you’re going to make your money back and then some,” Hicks said.
But he wasn’t just talking about money. He was talking about the time, loyalty and leadership he would be helping to implement into Radford University.
Executive Board 2011-12
Randi-Lyn Randall- Student Body President 2010-11
Lee Hicks- SGA President 2011-12
Emily Redd- Executive Vice President
Legislative Vice President- Justin Blankenship
Jolyn Paoleth in the running against Nicole Munsey- Vice President of Student Finance
Will hall, Nanly White, Stacy Hayden- At Large
Fionna Surette- Sophomore Senator