If you are explaining Bradley University to someone unfamiliar with the school, one way to get their attention is to tell them that our football team is undefeated since 1970.
The irony, of course, is that Bradley has not had a football team in 49 years. The program existed from the university’s inception in 1897 until it was discontinued after the 1970 season, finishing with a 308-240-32 total record. At the time, it was operating at a loss of around $25,000 to $40,000 a year.
During the press conference announcing the decision, Martin Abegg, then the acting president of Bradley, said the decision was to help the other athletic programs.
“The discontinuance is not an effort to de-emphasize the athletic program of the university … rather it is to provide a more solid financial basis for the other athletic programs at the university,” Abegg said.
Nearly a half-century since the program was discontinued, it is hard to find any mention of the former program on campus except for a T-shirt in the bookstore and a plaque at Olin Quad.
Presently, the university is once again facing a deficit along with short and long-term financial problems. Some say that Bradley should add women’s club hockey, women’s varsity soccer, club bowling or eSports. While eSports will be extremely profitable, bringing back football has the potential to be just as profitable and revitalizing if the university decides to bring it back.
Bradley would have a few things working in their favor. There is no need for a million-dollar coach and a massive stadium on the Hilltop just yet. It could be a goal that the university could work toward down the line. Another thing to consider is that Bradley would be playing in the Football Championship Subdivision rather than against Power Five conferences.
On the financial side, there is a substantial amount of potential revenue from ticket sales and merchandise.
Also, it provides a new way for the athletic department to market their product to younger generations and provide good publicity to the university. The media exposure would allow younger people from all different walks of life to learn about Bradley and the amazing academic opportunities it has to offer.
When a sports fan thinks of Saturday afternoons in the fall, they think of college football. One thing that Bradley is missing is the feeling of a Saturday fall afternoon with parking lots filled with tailgaters and other happy fans filling the surrounding businesses of the Hilltop. If that doesn’t build school spirit, what does?
Football is a piece of the Bradley’s history that has been forgotten over the last half-century. It’s been long enough since the football Braves have been a presence on campus, and it is time to reap the modern-day benefits of a lost piece of Bradley history.