When a college football program makes the decision to move from FCS to FBS, there are so many different thoughts to consider. One of the biggest always has to do with the current and future of the stadium. Sooner or later, upgrades must be made in order to become a fully functional football program at the highest level.
One program that seems to be bucking the trend for all of the wrong reasons is the Old Dominion Monarchs.
Recent news came out that Old Dominion's Board of Visitors decided to decline the stadium proposal of S.B. Ballard Construction without even taking a look at the proposal. What kind of message are they sending the fanbase?
We didn't think this move to the FBS through.
Those that opposed the move of Old Dominion from the FCS to the FBS believe that the entire decision was shortsighted. While the Monarchs were wanted by Conference USA in many ways for their media market, the program did not seem fully ready to make the jump upward.
The best comparison to Old Dominion would probably be at UTSA. The Roadrunners, while slightly younger as a program than the Monarchs, started playing football in 2011 before jumping to the FBS a season later in 2012 as a member of the WAC. Old Dominion started their football program in 2009 as a FCS Independent and made the jump to the FBS in 2014.
What is the difference?
A stadium. From the beginning, the Roadrunners had an ace in the hole called the Alamodome, a 65,000 seat stadium that would easily allow UTSA to move to the FBS level and host virtually any opponent immediately. It was built in 1993 and is still in very good shape as a viable home for UTSA in the distant future.
In comparison, the Monarchs have S.B. Ballard stadium. Yes, it is a stadium, but it is a 20,118 seat stadium that was built in 1936 and has not been maintained at the same level as the Alamodome. Despite the need from the very beginning, there was never a plan in place to turn the football stadium into a 30,000+ seat, state of the art stadium.
We don't really want to build a new stadium.
I know as well as anyone that bureaucracy can turn a simple job into a time consuming albatross. In a way, that is what has happened with the stadium. Yes, there was some work done heading into the 2009 season to improve the stadium. Since then, small improvements have been made to put a band aid on a gunshot wound.
In 2012, there were meetings about the future of S.B. Ballard Stadium and improvements needed to make the jump to the FBS. Fast forward to the fall of 2014 and there was no real movement forward. Finally, a decision was made to hire a consultant firm to help figure out the best options.
Sitting here in early May, we are still awaiting the results from the firm. We will finally hear what this firm thinks is the best option for Old Dominion moving forward. This will not be a quickly moving process at all. Nothing so far gives anyone hope that a decision will be made soon.
Once the firm announces their results, my best estimate is about six months of silence about the subject before being forced to put the stadium proposal out to bid. Maybe I am in the minority, but this has seemed for quite a while to be a stalling tactic.
Blame the government.
It should be noted that during part of this time, there were funding issues from the state government due to a General Assembly budget impasse in 2014. The school has been able to buy close to a year of silence by playing the "Blame the Government" card.
We don't care.
While I am the first to say that there were many parts of the S.B. Ballard proposal that would have to be changed, the fact that the Board of Visitors would not even look at it reeks of indifference.
Yes, I can concede that they had the right to wait until the results of the stadium study are concluded. While that is very true, it sends a bad sign to the fanbase in the way that it was handled. It seemed to many as another delay tactic rather than a prudent step to building a new stadium.
What would it have hurt for the board to let S.B. Ballard and company give a small presentation. At least give the illusion to the fanbase and donors that the stadium issue is moving forward.
At this point, does any Old Dominion fan expect to be sitting in a state of the art FBS football stadium anytime in the near future?