In the almost 200-year history of Centenary College, beginning a football program may be the most ambitious project the school has ever taken on. Buildings have been constructed, endowments have been financed, not to mention the constant change of educational growth.
But football? How is that going to work?
I don’t know that it is. Or better yet, I don’t know that it isn’t.
Three months after the announcement of bringing football to the Kings Highway campus, there are still those who wonder why a small liberal arts school of a little more than 500 undergraduate students would want to play Division III football.
“Well, look at that question; we WANT students here,” said David Orr, Centenary’s Director of Athletics. “We are not oblivious to what the talk around us is about the decision to bring back football. But I will say that we had so many people who know what they are doing turned over every rock and stone they could think to make sure it made sense for our college.
“Do you realize how many small, liberal arts colleges out there who play Division 3 football?” Orr added. “There’s a market for this.”
Technically, Centenary has had football before. The Gents had a notable Depression-era team – perhaps most famous for playing a game with a still-record 77 punts – but folded in 1941 after not being able to find 1,200 people to give $1 per month for three years.
They might want to re-think their fund-raising strategy this time around.
Don’t think for a second that someone woke up one day, thought football was a neat idea and called a press conference.
“We spent so much time going over those common-sense approaches from the lens of ‘why should we do this?’” Orr said. “Everybody on our committee took the approach of being skeptical that it will work. And we turned all the information that was presented, it turned into “why wouldn’t you do this?’ “
Oh, there are plenty of reasons why it might not work. But it’s a chance Centenary is willing to take.
One of the problems the Gents face in public perception is the term “college football.” Yes, it is the same sport that Alabama plays but the Crimson Tide has almost as many band members as Centenary has undergraduate students.
It’s “football” and the players go to “college” but you can stop there with comparisons. Mayo Field is never going to confused with Florida Field. Probably the best NIL deal a player could get would be a short stack at Strawn’s. Maybe even extra syrup.
Nick Saban did not submit an application to become head coach. But plenty did. Orr says he expects to have an announcement in the next month or two.
“I don’t know that I was surprised at the interest,” he said. “It’s more about the fact that it’s a start-up program. That’s not your normal search. This takes a different type of person with a different skill set than your average coach.”
The fall of 2024 may seem like a long way away and there will be problems that no one has even thought of yet. But Orr is confident the school will face the challenges head on.
“I’m more excited today (than on the day of the announcement) because now we are moving,” he said. “That part was more nerve-racking. I just wanted to get past that. It’s like an athlete in a game; once the whistle blows, now it gets fun. Now you’ve got the challenges ahead of you and now you can measure if you are being successful in certain areas. This is what you live for if you are a competitor.”
Inside the Centenary community, there was quite a build-up to the grand announcement on November 10. Light bulbs flashed, hands were shaken, backs were slapped. It was one big lovefest.
Welcome to the other side.
“The reality,” Orr said. “is that this is now a reality.”