Northeastern University Discontinues Football After 74 Years

On November 23, 2009, Northeastern University made a decision to discontinue its Division I football program. In a statement from the University, “it was determined that elevating and sustaining a competitive Division 1 football program would require additional multi-million dollar investments on an ongoing basis. A broad consensus developed behind discontinuing football and focusing future resources on programs—both academic and non-academic—where the university can achieve and sustain leadership.”

The Boston Globe reported that Northeastern’s football program, with a $3 million-plus annual budget, needed millions more each year, more money than the university was willing to invest. The football team had six consecutive losing seasons dating to 2004. If the school did field a team next year, college officials said, it probably would have involved an expensive national search for a new coach and stepped-up recruiting. In addition, significant costly improvements would likely be necessary to Parsons Field. The aluminum stands hold 7,000 fans – half the average of its peer members in the Colonial Athletic Association – and the team averaged fewer than 1,600 fans per game as it went 2-4 at home this season. According to Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby, it would have required “a multimillion investment in the future that I was not comfortable making,” Roby said, noting that Parsons Field was “just not appropriate for a level of play that we were aspiring to.”

The Globe reported that Northeastern’s 87 football players and 10 coaches learned about the decision from Roby a day after the Football Championship Subdivision team won its final game, 33-27, at the University of Rhode Island to finish the season with 3 wins and 8 losses. The roughly 65 players with full or partial athletic scholarships will keep their financial aid and are encouraged to complete their degree.

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun stated, “at a time when higher education is critically important to rebuilding our knowledge-based economy universities have an obligation to invest resources in areas of strength—whether they are competitive athletic programs or cutting-edge academics.”