A vacancy has opened up in the local FCS market, why not take advantage of it?
With Liberty's ascendancy to the ranks of the FBS, Virginia has now lost two FCS teams to the big leagues since 2012, including Old Dominion. Virginia remains a fertile recruiting ground for top talent, but not every kid can go D1. Refilling the ranks of VA's FCS schools will be advantageous for young prospects and Longwood University alike.
Longwood University is a small Public Liberal Arts school located in Farmville, Virginia. The University has an enrollment of 5,100 students but has recently expressed a desire to increase that number to 10,000. The Lancers are technically a Division I-AAA school, meaning they have D1 basketball already but no football. They also occupy an area of Southside Virginia that lacks a football program, as Liberty is just outside the region. There is no shortage of potential recruits either considering the area is criminally under-recruited at the college level, and many high school stars wind up as regular Longwood students or play next door at Division III school, Hampden-Sydney College.
Football is expensive though. With a starting price tag of around $20 million dollars and an annual cost of around $2.5-3 million dollars, student tuition would have to be increased significantly. A new stadium would have to be built, which could also run in the $20-25 million dollar range. Luckily, Longwood does have state backing and plenty of space to build a stadium, particularly Lancer Park. Farmville isn't equipped to handle major game day traffic but then again, neither is Lexington, Virginia for VMI and Washington & Lee. Farmville is America's oldest two-college town, and, with all of its recent renovations, a major draw such as Division 1 football could bring a huge economic windfall to the community.
An excellent 2016 piece by Titus Mohler in the local Farmville Herald highlighted current Longwood president Taylor Reveley IV's own playing experience at the FCS level at Princeton as a bonus. Mohler also points to local resident Ron Dowdy's history of funding athletics programs from Central Florida to East Carolina, as a potential boon to Longwood's creation of football. With so many resources at their disposal it seems like a no brainer. Adding two or so more women's sports to balance out the title IX regulations wouldn't be difficult, though expensive, as Longwood is still heavily female populated.
So what would this football team look like? Longwood has two options, scholarship and non-scholarship. Longwood's sports currently reside in the Big South Conference along with fellow Virginia schools Hampton and Radford. It would make sense, were LU to go with scholarship football, to place their team in the Big South. It is an extremely competitive conference though and the Lancers would have their hands full with a lineup of Monmouth, North Alabama, Kennesaw State, North Carolina A&T, Hampton, Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern and Campbell. On the other hand, should Longwood go the other route with non-scholarship football, there is a perfect opportunity for their admission to the Pioneer League. Visiting Iowa, New York, Florida, Minnesota and California would definitely yield concerns over travel costs, but the lack of 65 scholarships to awards should ease these. Campbell's exit from the Pioneer to the Big South leaves a regional vacancy for Longwood football to fill in NC and give Presbyterian College in SC a travel partner.
It is an interesting proposition to entertain and with the exponential increase in colleges offering football, Longwood could easily jump on the bandwagon. Schools with successful football programs do in fact have a tangible effect on the following year's number of applicants, so LU's plan to increase its number of students would go hand in hand with football. That's another 150 students alone just from football and its female counterparts. As a former resident of Southside VA and Hampden-Sydney graduate, I would be thrilled to see Farmville gain a program the community can rally around and add an opportunity for local athletes to fulfill their dreams. Your move Longwood.