Lake Larsen | Sports Editor
The football program has been a part of Western Oregon University since 1923. However, the end might be in sight.
Western belongs to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and competes at the NCAA DII level for football. Along with Western there are four other schools: Central Washington, Simon Fraser, Azusa Pacific and Humboldt State that complete the conference.
As of July 17, Humboldt State announced that the 2018 season will mark the final season for football at their school. Due to this loss in the conference, I believe that the GNAC might be seeing its final days, leading to an eventual death of Western football.
After losing Humboldt State, the GNAC will only have four members. For a comparison, the average NCAA DI conference hosts about 12 teams, meaning the GNAC size is far below average. Due to this, Western is forced to play every team in the conference twice in order to field a full season of games.
With Humboldt State no longer on the schedule, Western will be forced to travel approximately 1,000 miles at the closest to play another opponent. This is due to NCAA DII football being very sparse on the western half of the United States with only five teams west of Colorado. The added travel will lead to student athletes being away from classes for a longer period of time as well as an increased cost — something that Western Oregon, per the fiscal year 2019 working budget, already budgets $85,630 for.
If Western wants to continue to field a football program, the answer might lie in moving up a competition level to NCAA FCS (DI-AA). The FCS level hosts far more teams much closer for Western to travel to. However, in order to join, Western would have to pass a multitude of obstacles, something that the school would need to investigate if they wanted to keep a program.
Regardless of which route Western wants to take in regards to a football program, action needs to be taken. The GNAC is already a tiny conference in comparison to the rest of collegiate football conferences and with the loss of Humboldt State, Western’s options are dwindling. Traveling hundreds of miles for games will only increase the budget making the funding side of the program increasingly more difficult. If the school doesn’t act soon, I believe there will no longer be a team to watch.
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