As the saying goes, traditions have to start somewhere. This has not been a problem for Georgetown. Our school has been widely recognized as an academic giant and a basketball powerhouse, but times are quickly changing in college athletics. To stay ahead of the curve, a new tradition needs to be quickly established.

We all know by now of conference realignment but are unsure as to what effect it will have on the Big East, and more importantly, Georgetown. With this uncertainty comes a plethora of options: We can sit back and see what the Big East wants to do, reach out to other conferences unilaterally, or we could put ourselves in the position to be a preeminent force when superconferences start to form in the next decade.

I choose the last option. And that can be accomplished by starting a Football Bowl Subdivision football team.

Last week I wrote about Boise State’s recent scandal. In the column I laid out how they went from a Football Championship Subdivision school to an FBS school in the 1990s with relatively little turbulence. While our situations are not analogous, it is not too far-fetched to believe that we could have a fully functional FBS program by the start of the next decade.

Already reacting to these changes, Georgetown has just completed plans to build a new 125,000 square-foot Intercollegiate Athletic Center. After announcing this plan, Athletic Director Lee Reed mentioned that building this facility would “level the playing field” in regard to conference realignment issues. He certainly makes it seem like we’ll be considering all of our options in the next few years and won’t be afraid to spend money if necessary.

Spending money on athletics is one thing — making it in large quantities is something else entirely. In 2009 the revenue of all Division I college basketball teams, 344 in total, amounted to around $978 million. While that is an incredible amount of money, the 120 teams that comprise the FBS brought in a staggering $2.575 billion dollars, more than 2.5 times as much as basketball.

The simple conclusion is that the real money lies in college football. Just take a look at bowl revenue (more than half of FBS teams play in a bowl), conference television networks, and revenue sharing deals between schools that make college presidents and athletic directors alike jump around like they’ve won the lottery.

One caveat though — you have to spend money to make money. The short-term expense of starting an FBS program would be incredibly large.

But if that’s what is needed to make Georgetown a force in this changing athletic climate, I’m absolutely sure that students and alumni will pony up the big bucks and support the Blue and Gray through thick and thin.

Currently, we do not offer scholarships to our football players. We would have to start this move by offering scholarships to 65 athletes at a cost of around $3.5 million per year. Putting football players on full rides would dramatically improve our recruiting. Then we would either have to dominate the Patriot League or move to another more competitive league to prep us for the end goal of becoming an FBS school.

Then the hardest part of this transition comes. A new stadium would have to be built, and it would need to seat at least 15,000 due to FBS attendance regulations. The cost would be tremendous, but if we had a winning product on the field, those seats would be filled every week. If successful, we would apply to an FBS conference. More money would be spent, new coaches would be hired and bigger contracts would be sought. A move like this is certainly risky, but if executed the right way, with the right athletic department, the reward could be the single biggest payday in Georgetown athletic history.

Since we are a prestigious school that already offers a great basketball team coupled with a great academic reputation and a great location, we would easily be one of the top targets for prestigious conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, or Big East (if it stays together). I may be naive, but I know that the community at Georgetown would support this endeavor. We have already seen sparks of a successful team this year, and the buzz around the program is certainly growing. While we don’t have all of the parts to the puzzle right now, we can start assembling them piece by piece.

This transition can’t be expected to be easy, but we can hope that it’s done right. The future of our school’s athletic affiliation is on the line, and I, for one, want us to come out on top rather than get lost in the mix.

Matt Emch is a sophomore in the College. Riding the Pine appears every Friday.

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