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Chicago State Exploring Adding Division I Football Program

The Cougars could have a football team within three years if all goes according to plan.

2023 Division I FCS Football Championship Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The college football landscape is ever-changing and it’s shown no signs of slowing down in the coming years. Some of that change appears to be coming to the Windy City soon. News broke last week that Chicago State University is exploring the prospect of adding football to its current lineup of sports teams that include basketball, cross country, golf, tennis, track & field and volleyball.

The university has already assembled a 16-member exploratory committee to examine the financial feasibility of adding a football program. The committee, which consists of several former NFL players including Howard Griffith, Vaughn Bryant and Otis Wilson, is expected to provide more information on the future of the prospective team later this spring according to CSU athletic director Monique Carroll per the Chicago Tribune.

If recommended and approved, the football program could begin playing as soon as the 2025 season and would likely play at the FCS level.

“If that is favorable, we could be looking at Chicago’s only Division I program, right here on the South Side,” Carroll said in a press conference last week.

There do exist several hurdles, however, that the school will need to jump in order to make this a reality and they aren’t all financial.

The Cougars currently have no conference affiliation in all sports except women’s tennis (Horizon League) and men’s soccer (MAC) after leaving the WAC last June but Carroll expects them to join a new league soon. Doing so would be important for the prospect of adding football. There is currently only one independent FCS program... Kennesaw State... which is in the process of transitioning to FBS.

Building a full schedule would likely be very difficult for a program with no conference to call home. The University of Texas Rio Grand Valley is planning for its future program to play its first season in 2025 as well and has already established itself as a future member of the WAC. Chicago State will need to follow in those footsteps preemptively align itself with a league as well. Adding football may also serve as an aid in landing a new conference for the school.

Optimism is high, however, that the school can get it done.

“The good thing about the city of Chicago is high school football is alive and well,” Carroll said. “To grow enrollment; we know adding even 100 football players, what they could do for a university of our size.”