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ETSU student opinion mixed on proposed football fee

SAM WATSON • Mar 30, 2007 at 11:36 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Paying new fees to revive football is just fine by some East Tennessee State University students. Some think it would be too expensive. Others are indifferent.

"I really am kind of impartial to it because my parents pay for it all," Daniel Caldwell, an ETSU sophomore from Kingsport, said Friday. "If I had to pay for it ... I guess I'd be against it because I really don't care that much about having a football team."

On April 10-11, ETSU's Student Government Association will ask students to consider the fee in a referendum, a crucial juncture in the administration's drive to restore play by 2010.

Because the team would not be in place before most current students leave the university, ETSU would phase in the fee, starting at $25 per semester and growing to as much as $125 per semester once the team is in place.

Less than two weeks before the student vote, an informal sample on campus Friday revealed a variety of student opinion.

Freshmen David Pickett and Chris Starnes were ready to pay the fee to see the Buccaneers back on the gridiron.

"I think it's pretty good," Pickett said. "I think we should bring back the football team so there would be more to do around here than just watch the basketball team. It would probably increase the population here as far as students.

"That could be $150 we waste eating fast food or something."

Starnes said he would attend home games and might travel to away games, as well. He misses the atmosphere football brings to the college experience.

"I think having a football program in college is a good thing," he said. "It's the excitement of having football. You have the big hits, the wins, the band, the cheerleaders - all that good stuff."

ETSU sophomore Brendon Dougan was dead set against the fee increase.

"I definitely think football is not worth paying extra tuition," Dougan said. "It's been a flop in the past, and honestly, there's no reason to bring it back."

He had heard little support for the idea but noted limited discussion.

"I've not talked to a single person who's been for it, but just because of my circle of friends, I'm not likely to," Dougan said. "I hope it doesn't go through because I really don't want to pay more money on top of the thousands of dollars we have to pay for tuition and books."

Planning to graduate in August, ETSU senior Elizabeth Willis said she would not vote in the referendum since she would not be affected by the fee. She expected some graduating seniors to vote anyway.

"That's probably a bad thing because they won't be participating and paying for it," Willis said.

Senior Michael Wright planned to vote in favor of the referendum. He did not mind voting on an increase that would affect future ETSU students.

"No, it doesn't bother me at all because other schools around that are of this caliber have fees that are higher than we are asking students to pay," Wright said. "I don't think it will bother students here - maybe the first or second semester, but after that, they'd get over it."

Wright, who runs track for ETSU, was at the university during the Bucs' last football season in 2003 and fondly recalled games in Memorial Center.

"I went to just about all the home games they had. I kind of miss it," Wright said. "It gave the students something to do around here - the cheering section, trying to get on the rails to watch the games."

Junior Anna Peake was still undecided about how she would cast her vote.

"I think we really need a football team, but I don't think we should have to increase our costs," she said. "It's ridiculous."

Even though the vote was on the horizon, Peake had heard little talk about the proposed fee increase on campus.

"I guess because I'm just in one building all day, I don't hear very much about it," she said.

ETSU junior Matthew Malantonio was surprised to learn of the fee proposal.

"I didn't know," he said. "This is the first I've heard about it."

He was opposed to paying so much for games he would not attend.

"I think I can watch TV, and I think everybody else can too," Malantonio said. "I don't attend games, but even if I did, that's still a lot of money."

If students approve the fee increase, the measure would go before ETSU's governing panel, the Tennessee Board of Regents, for consideration in June. Even with revenue from the fee, ETSU officials have said restoring the football team would require significant support from donors, both for a $15 million stadium project and annual athletics operations.

ETSU President Paul Stanton ended the football program in 2003 for financial reasons, including a lack of donor support.

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