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Football at Wright State? Board of Trustees Hears Possible Changes to Athletics

Nutter Center | Photo by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State University’s (WSU) Board of Trustees (BoT) weighed possible changes to the university’s athletics program at the Special Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting.

MRJ contract

WSU formed a contract with MRJ Advisors, a company that gives support and advice to universities based on the data they collect. This contract had MRJ collect data on Divisions I, II and III schools over the fall 2021 semester, according to MRJ’s digital report presented to the board during the meeting.

BoT members agree that WSU should stay a Division I athletics university. This is because of data collected through a contract that WSU has with MRJ. 

Factored into MRJ’s analysis was WSU Athletics financial data. According to the presentation, the program brought in $12,010,000 in 2020, while expenditures for that same year were $12,100,000.

Chart courtesy of MRJ Advisors

WSU’s NCAA Division

WSU is currently a Division I school in the Horizon League for all its sports, including basketball. Divisions are split based on the size of the athletic program, with Division I being the largest division and Division III being the smallest.

WSU would only fall to Division II if they were to drop out of Division I. Division III would not offer athletic scholarships to students, according to Tim Hickman, an MRJ advisor. 

Due to the financial analysis, the university’s athletic success, its current competitive sports and its role in student life and recruitment, MRJ recommended WSU stay as a Division I athletic program.

However, WSU must reinstate or introduce three sports programs per NCAA regulations to remain Division I. The advisors also suggested that an Athletics merger with Campus Recreation and high-performing club sports could provide operational efficiency and feeder opportunities for new Division I sport programs.

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MRJ conducted athletic surveys to see how students felt about athletics and what sports they would like to see. The board discussed adding football to WSU athletics as a Division II sport, and the Lake Campus expressed interest in having volleyball as a sport. Bowling was also mentioned.

WSU currently competes at Division I–AAA, which does not sponsor football at the intercollegiate level, according to the advisors’ presentation.

“We have Division I schools that do not participate in the sport of football,” Hickman said.

The Horizon League currently does not sponsor football, but members Robert Morris University and Youngstown State University play in Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with affiliate conferences.

Other schools, like Cleveland State University, have also considered the option of adding a football team. The only other FCS program in Ohio is the University of Dayton.

According to Hickman, Division II schools with a football program generate roughly the same revenue as Division I schools despite the lower budget. 

The advisors recommended that WSU maintain a member of the Horizon League.

Hickman also stated that maintenance would need to be addressed on athletic facilities, specifically, the Nutter Center. 

BoT members, along with university administration, will develop a five-year plan to maximize revenue given the university’s budget restructure, according to the presentation shown to the board.

Athletic fees

WSU does not have a fee that goes directly to the athletic program. The board discussed possibly implementing an athletic fee since many Division I schools have an athletic fee on top of tuition.

According to the board, an athletic fee may increase budgeting for WSU athletics. There is no required athletic fee at this time. 

Student Athletic Survey

In their analysis of WSU’s athletics, MRJ factored in student opinion via a student athletics survey. This survey conducted in October 2021 saw a 20% participation rate among the student population, 79% of which are non-athletes. 

According to the survey results presented in the meeting, 48% of respondents indicated that athletics was a part of their student experience at WSU, 47% said athletics contributes to their Raider pride and 39% see WSU as a nationally recognized name in the college sports world. 

Readers can read the full MRJ report on the Board of Trustees’ website.