All these CTE studies are legitimately scary, verifying what we already knew, that football is a violent and dangerous game with the potential for serious long-term impacts.
Then comes an update from the National Football Foundation veryifying America’s love affair with the game, a magnetic appeal that shows no signs of waning.
According to the NFF, a record 777 schools will field football teams in 2017, spanning the NCAA’s various levels plus NAIA and independent competition. That’s up from 484 in 1978.
Eight more programs will start football teams in 2018, including Keiser University in West Palm Beach.
Other Florida schools to add the sport in the last decade are the University of West Florida in Pensacola (2016), Southeastern University in Lakeland (2014), Florida Tech in Melbourne (2013), Stetson University in DeLand (2013), Warner University in Lake Wales (2013) and Ave Maria University near Immokalee (2011).
Conference USA, the league that includes Florida Atlantic and Florida International, is packing up on new programs. Old Dominion, which won the Bahamas Bowl in December, started football in 2009. Charlotte started in 2013 and Texas-San Antonio in 2011.
Add it all up and 40 schools have added football to their athletic programs in the last six seasons.
It takes a lot of players to fill all those rosters, including non-scholarship programs, and the kids keep coming from high schools everywhere.
Doesn’t mean that the NFL and colleges and high schools should stop investigating the causes and possible preventions of multiple concussions. Just last month the Miami Dolphins announced they would pay for baseline concussion testing for 15,000 public high school players in Miami-Dade County. That project, in partnership with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute, is exactly what NFL teams and other industry leaders need to be doing.
All the talk about football dying out in the future because of health concerns seems to be premature, however. There is anxiety over cognitive impacts from repeated blows to the head, but not enough to shut this game down any time soon, or even to significantly alter the way it is being played.
The whole package, from the game to the marching band to the cheering in the stands, remains attractive to colleges and universities. Football is more than just fun. It’s a tiebreaker for some students in choosing between one school or another. Though expensive to produce, it’s a part of the overall college experience that many small schools simply don’t think they can afford to leave out.