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Based on the findings of a consultant's market assessment, Old Dominion will continue to explore the possibility of adding football as a Division I-AA intercollegiate sport in fall 2009, the university's Board of Visitors learned at its quarterly meeting Dec. 16.

Following a presentation at the meeting by Alonzo Brandon, vice president for development and alumni relations, ODU President Roseann Runte said her recommendation is it's "feasible" to pursue the matter further, but that adjustments may have to be made to the initial timeline, which called for having $8 million in pledges in place by June 1, 2006, to help support a football program. "We should just carry on, and we will report later on in the spring concerning how things are going with the timeline," Runte told the board.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting agency retained by the university in August to conduct the market assessment, indicated in its report that the response to its survey of alumni and the community with regard to financial support fell short of the $8 million mark. Based on the response, the university at this point could expect , at a minimum, $3.3 million in up-front, one-time gifts, plus another $1.5 million in annual revenue from season ticket sales, seat donations and general donations, Brandon said.

As stated in the report's executive summary, "... It should be expected that the time and effort required to solicit contributions from over 3,000 potential donors will be more extensive than if the total up-front giving potential had been driven by fewer respondents providing larger commitments. Given the limited staff in the University Development department and the June 1, 2006 deadline for pledges, consideration should be given to either amending the deadline or expanding the development team that will be charged with soliciting these pledges."

Brandon, while admitting that the university had hoped more up-front money would have been pledged via the consultants' survey, nevertheless said he was optimistic that additional money can be raised to meet the $8 million goal, but that more time is needed. He also said that ODU will need to develop a benefits package before many donors will commit to supporting football. "Raising the money is not an issue; the timeline is an issue," he said.

President Runte also reported that negotiations are continuing with regard to land acquisition for a football practice field and other athletic fields that would be needed if ODU were to adopt football. "We're very close to coming to a conclusion that will be a win for the city, a win for the university and a win for everybody all the way around," she said. Runte asked for the board's patience and promised an announcement soon about the land acquisition issue. She also noted that Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim has been cooperative and helpful in the process.

Should the university decide to add football, ODU would need to increase its number of women's' sports in accordance with NCAA Title IX guidelines. Some 90 participants and 63 scholarships would have to be added to women's athletics, matching a like number of players and scholarships for a football program.

If football is approved, ODU would add women's crew in 2007, women's softball in 2009 and women's volleyball in 2015, according to athletic director Jim Jarrett.

This article was posted on: December 18, 2005

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