With the start of the new academic year, Lincoln University has made some big changes to its campus. The nation’s oldest Black college resurrected its football team and created a marching band. The institution and its president Ivory V. Nelson hope that theses changes will attract more students to the suburban Pennsylvania campus. Previously, many students headed home on the weekends, dampening the campus spirit and making it difficult for Lincoln University admissions staff to convince potential students that campus life was vibrant and engaging. With the addition of the football team and marching band, students are excited and enthusiastic about the University and the campus is buzzing on the weekends!
Supporting a football team and marching band is expensive and could draw funds from other parts of the institution. However, if marketed and implemented successfully, Lincoln could draw increased tuition dollars and alumni support. In order to acquire alumni support, the institution will need to communicate with its alumni, making sure that they understand the financial toll that a football program can take on a small institution and also how important alumni are to the success of a university. Lincoln must communicate the need for alumni support of scholarships and academic programs as well as the new football team.
Lincoln will also want to make sure that it builds its reputation on its academic programs, even when the attention is focused on its football program. For example, The New York Times recently published an article lauding Lincoln’s new football program and marching band, but have they examined the institution’s academics in an article. In addition, monies from the football program should be funneled to other areas of the university to ensure the success of the entire institution.
Many other institutions of higher education have added football and reaped the benefits – let’s hope that Lincoln University joins these ranks.
An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions (SUNY Press, 2008).