Chicago State moved closer to adding a Division I Football Championship Subdivision football team Thursday. The school announced that its board of trustees has approved a proposal to begin a public fundraising campaign to expand its sports teams. Here’s what you need to know.
- In January, Chicago State put together a football exploratory committee to look at the impact and provide a recommendation to the school president, following a feasibility study completed in 2021. That recommendation to the president was made in May.
- The initial goal of this fundraising campaign is $4 million.
- Along with football hopes, the school announced the launch of a women’s triathlon program to begin next year and has looked at adding women’s swimming.
What is the purpose of adding football?
Chicago State is a small school with an enrollment of around 3,000 students, most of whom are Black. Adding football and more women’s sports could increase enrollment by adding 210 student-athletes and expanding the school’s reach, which furthers the university’s goal of growing its student body, athletic director Dr. Monique Carroll told The Athletic.
The hope is that a football program would help entice student-athletes, helping the school reach its mission. “The number of kids that play in the city that have to leave because it’s not an option (is a lot). Especially in today’s climate with the transfer portal when kids want to get closer to home, now they’d have an option to play Division I football at home,” Carroll said.
Football could also help Chicago State find a conference. The school is an athletic independent in 10 of its 15 sports, including basketball. Three sports play in the Ohio Valley Conference and two play in the football-less Horizon League. Carroll said the school can’t afford to be a football independent, so the hope is adding football will open more FCS conference doors. The OVC and Missouri Valley Football Conference overlap in the region. (So does the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, but CSU will be a scholarship team).
The last school to create a Division I football program was Kennesaw State in 2015. That program, just outside Atlanta, immediately found success and will move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision next year. Texas Rio Grande Valley is also in the process of creating an FCS program that will begin play in 2025.
What is the next step?
The school is working on securing donors and corporate partners, and it will take the fundraising results to the board. There is no hard deadline, but the board meets quarterly and the hope is to launch the program in 2025, which is an aggressive timeline.
Carroll said the school, with its 161 acres, isn’t limited by land in a city. It already has space for locker rooms and a field for practice, and it can rent space from high-end high schools if needed. A location for home games hasn’t been determined, but possibilities range from Soldier Field to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview to local high schools.
“It’s not about the hype,” Carroll said. “It’s about doing the right thing and tying it back to the university’s strategic plan. This makes a lot of sense.”
(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)