“It’s ever-changing, getting more competitive, and more expensive. A successful Division I football program is going to get more expensive over time. We looked at the cost of the program and the benefit of the program and ultimately determined that this decision had to be made for the long-term success and benefit of the department and the university.” – Alex Ricker-Gilbert, Jacksonville Athletic Director
After conducting a 12 to 15-month data-driven analysis, Jacksonville University announced it will no longer play football and will discontinue its Division I program, effective immediately. The University has participated in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League since 1998.
“It’s a strategic play for the long-term look of the athletic department,” Ricker-Gilbert tells CollegeAD. “My job is to optimize the experience of all of our student-athletes; when you have 450 non-football playing student-athletes you have to think about them too.”
The University is honoring the employment agreements for all football coaches and offering enhanced resources to assist in their job search. They are also offering full-tuition scholarships to every football student-athlete who chooses to stay at Jacksonville University until graduation.
“Our priority, right now, is these young men and assisting them with their transition. We play non-scholarship football and so if they go on and play at another institution, we hope to support them in that process. We want to produce college graduates. If they stay on here as students, we will provide full-tuition scholarships; that’s something that they are not currently getting.”
To assist the student-athletes with these important decisions, the University has established a dedicated team of experienced leaders from key departments, including Financial Aid, Academic Advising, the Registrar’s Office, Athletics Support Services, Student Affairs, and more.
“With this discontinuation of the program, there’s a bylaw that speaks to immediate eligibility. So, these guys will be able to play at any level immediately, if they wish to do so.”
Ricker-Gilbert says the decision was not an easy one, but he believes it will ultimately benefit the athletic department and university.
“We are constantly evaluating things as a university and within that, we’ve embarked on a strategic planning process. Part of that is this pillar of athletics; when you have a 3000 student undergraduate population and 550 student-athletes you have 1 out of 6 of your students walking around as athletes, that’s a big part of the strategic plan.”
This story first appeared in The NightCap, CollegeAD’s evening newsletter. The NightCap delivers the day’s college athletics news in simple bullet points, giving you what you need to know in just a few lines. Get The NightCap today.