Updated: Oct 1, 2020
When your most high profile professional athlete is in a sport you don't sponsor, maybe it's time to re-evaluate.
From Hardwood to Gridiron:
Mo Alie-Cox was a dominating force on the basketball court for the VCU Rams from 2014-2017. Over the course of four years, Alie-Cox recorded a total of 1,092 points, 663 rebounds, 255 blocks, 112 assists, and 87 steals leaving VCU as their all-time leader in field goal percentage. Not only was he successful statistically, Alie-Cox also led VCU to their very first Atlantic 10 conference title in 2015 and an NCAA tournament berth four years in a row. Following his outstanding career, Mo Alie-Cox's prospects of an NBA future looked slim, so, rather than attempt a career in the NBA G-League or a foreign league, he decided to try his hand at football.
The Indianapolis Colts initially signed him in April of 2017 before eventually waiving him and resigning him several time. Alie-Cox landed on the practice squad where he would remain until being activated to the roster in 2018. It wasn't until the acrobatic, one-handed TD reception, pictured above, that Alie-Cox was truly recognized for his unlimited potential. With the signing of former Charger's QB Philip Rivers combined with several TE injuries on the Colt's roster, Alie-Cox has been allowed to shine, playing the role of longtime Rivers target Antonio Gates. So with VCU's most prominent professional athlete being in the NFL rather than the NBA, one must wonder why VCU is still holding out on starting their own football team?
Why and How?:
VCU is one of the largest colleges in Virginia with an enrollment over 31,000, located in downtown Richmond. The Rams have embraced their role as a "basketball" school along with George Mason in Northern Virginia. Yet despite their reluctance to field a football team, VCU has seen several other Virginia schools invest in their football programs to much success. Cross-town rival, Richmond has long had a successful team, winning the 2008 FCS National Championship and perennially making the FCS playoffs. James Madison is coming off two National Championship trips with one victory. Long-time basketball rival Old Dominion started their program from scratch in 2009, competing in the FCS' Colonial Athletic Association until making the leap to FBS in 2014. Old Dominion has had varying levels of success but made the FCS playoffs in 2011 and 2012, and won the 2016 Bahamas Bowl over Eastern Michigan. Another up and coming instate program is the Liberty University Flames. Liberty was massively successful in the FCS, winning their conference title 8/10 years before transitioning to the FBS. The Flames are coming off their first ever bowl game and bowl win, besting Georgia Southern 23-16 in the Cure Bowl. Clearly these smaller institutions don't have the resources VCU does but they have committed to football and are reaping the rewards.
VCU has the endowment and student body large enough to support a start up program even if it is just at the FCS level. The CAA provides a natural home for Rams football where they can compete against Virginia rivals James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary. James Madison is exemplary of the FCS model for VCU should they choose this route; a massive stadium with an enthusiastic fan base and continued on-field success make it the envy of 1-AA programs. Should an opportunity to be invited to the C-USA or American conference arrive then Old Dominion should be the model. Who wouldn't want to see the vicious in state basketball rivalries translate onto the gridiron? Let Mo-Alie Cox be the brand ambassador for a Rams football team, clad in all black and gold. The fertile recruiting grounds and built in rivalries lend itself to beginning the program development process. It's time for VCU to accept the fact that football is key to sustaining their national sports relevance and get on board.