Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

The Mansfield Mountaineer football program has been on life support for close to three years. Last week the administration pulled the plug. On Wednesday Mansfield Head Coach Jim Shiffer held a closed door meeting with his players informing them that the administration had plans in place to eliminate the sport of football following this season after 117 consecutive years of competition. This move not only impacts the players and coaches in the Mountaineer program, but the entire university as a whole. At face value this move has little impact on anyone not residing near the intersections of routes nine and 256. But, when you delve into the issue it becomes apparent that this move will have a trickle down effect not only on the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, prospective Mansfield students but college football fans as well. Not only does the sport of football serve as a unifying force within a community but the economic gains in said community are immense as well.

Mansfield has been less then competitive in the past 40 years, compiling a meager .456 winning percentage and are currently the owners of a 0-9 record in 2006. From a competitive standpoint the administration should have made this move years ago. However a decision such as the one handed down from the powers that be at Mansfield University represents one of the most damaging to the psyche of a student body both now and in the future.

One effect on the most fundamental level of a school without football is the events surrounding homecoming weekend. Picture if you will a crisp early October day in West Chester as hoards of Alumni and students pack the streets for the annual homecoming parade and gazing on as floats, marching bands and campus organizations go marching by. Then scattering back to their lives just hours after returning to their alma mater for what should be a day or weekend long reunion. For without football, there would be nothing to capture and retain the attention of the masses, because lets face it there are only so many renditions of John Phillip Souza’s march one can tolerate before insanity begins to set in.

On economic front, local business will suffer immensely without benefit of five home dates for the Mounties. Returning to our local analogy, restaurants and bars are flooded with Golden Rams fans following an afternoon at Farrell Stadium. These restaurants would certainly suffer a hit to their bottom lines without the benefit of increased traffic five Saturdays during the fall.

Switching gears to the fundamental football aspects of this decision, the Mountaineers clearly played an emotional football game Saturday against the Golden Rams. Can anyone blame them? Not only was Mansfield playing a clearly superior opponent, but also dealing with the fact that the program they have been a part of for their entire college career was being disbanded in a matter of weeks. Then, factor in the uncertainty of underclassmen not knowing where they will be attending school next year, let alone playing football. “You feel bad for their kids most of all” Said Bill Zwaan “Those kids put in as much work as our kids week in and week out and all of that work is now going for nothing, you just feel bad for the kids.”

Mansfield’s decision not only impacts that institution, but also every school competing in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Division II Football rules require teams to play a full ten game schedule in order to be eligible for the playoffs. The PSAC also requires nine of those games to be played against conference opponents. To compound the situations, most teams operate on a two-year contract when scheduling games. Now that the Mountaineers will no longer be competing in football it sends coaches such as Zwaan scrambling to find a tenth game for next season and beyond.

All in all, this cowardice move by Mansfield University will impact the sporting culture in the state of Pennsylvania for years to come. One can only hope that the powers that be considered all possible alternatives before driving the death nail into the lifeblood of a university population, college football fans, not to mention all of the players who have gave their blood sweat and tears on the gridiron over the past 117 years.

Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on 91.7 WCUR on Saturdays from 12:00-2:00 PM and is simulcast worldwide at www.wcur.fm

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