CONWAY, Ark. (May 6, 2008) – Hendrix College’s Board of Trustees directed the college’s administrators to develop NCAA Division III non-scholarship intercollegiate football and women’s lacrosse at the college. Football has been absent from the college since the 1960 football season.
Trustees directed the college’s administration to begin these sports contingent on raising start-up costs from external sources. This will ensure financial resources would not be taken from academic programs. In fact, Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd said establishing these sports will ultimately enhance academic opportunities at the 132-year-old college through the addition of professors and academic programs made possible by recent and continuing growth in the college’s enrollment.
“The Board believes that the addition of these sports will support the efforts of Hendrix to increase the size, quality and diversity of its student body and to protect recent enrollment gains,” according to a resolution approved by Trustees.
More than 1/4th of Hendrix’s students already participate in intercollegiate athletics.
Cloyd said fundraising for football would in no way interfere with the college’s current $100 million capital campaign. A target date for the implementation of the new sports has not been determined.
“As Hendrix College continues to grow, we need to envision new ways to enhance the complete educational experience at Hendrix,” said Marty Rhodes, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees and co-chair of the college’s Football Study Committee. “After significant research and a comprehensive discussion, the Board saw this as a constructive way to create new opportunities for future Hendrix College students through non-scholarship, Division III intercollegiate athletics.”
Hendrix is one of three schools in its athletic conference – the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference – without a football team. If implemented, Hendrix would join nine other football-playing schools in the conference and become the only NCAA Division III football program in Arkansas.
Division III athletics is different from other NCAA football divisions because athletic scholarships are not allowed, coaches are paid like faculty, and money is not allocated for athletic programs at the expense of academic programs. Division III colleges are predominately known for their academic achievements with athletics considered secondary.
Austin College was added to the conference in 2006, and Colorado College and Birmingham Southern joined the conference for the 2007-08 season. All three have football programs, joining Millsaps, Trinity (Texas), DePauw, Rhodes, Centre and Sewanee as football-playing colleges in the conference. Hendrix, Southwestern (Texas) and Oglethorpe (Georgia) are the only three schools that don’t field a football team.
“Athletics have always been secondary to academics here at Hendrix, and that will never change,” Cloyd said. “We believe that Division III athletics enhances the whole person academically by providing opportunities to compete athletically against our peer institutions, and adding these sports only increases the opportunity for our students to compete on the playing field. Division III athletics in the SCAC also preserves the value of the liberal arts.”
The athletic scholarships offered by other Arkansas colleges was a major reason Hendrix dropped football in 1960, according to historical accounts.
In the late 1940s, Hendrix officials became frustrated because other schools in Arkansas began to subsidize athletics – paying football players’ room, board, tuition and oftentimes spending money in exchange for their participation in athletics – according to the 1984 book “Hendrix College: A Centennial History” written by James E. Lester Jr. That development meant that some schools “will have the best football teams that money can buy,” former Hendrix College President Matt Locke Ellis said at that time. Hendrix football teams were then clearly at a disadvantage, with the Warriors faltering in the second half of football games against larger and more skilled opponents.
By the fall of 1955, the Hendrix football team included only 22 players, and over a three-year span the Warriors won only one football game. These factors, combined with the mounting expense of fielding a football team, forced the discontinuance of football at Hendrix in 1956.
Football returned briefly in the late 1950s but was discontinued following the 1960 season.
The decision to introduce Division III non-scholarship football to Hendrix came after a 13-month study led by Chuck Chappell, a professor of English at Hendrix since 1969 and a 1964 graduate of Hendrix College, and Marty Rhodes, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees and a 1972 Hendrix graduate. Composed of alumni, students, faculty and staff, the football study committee conducted an extensive study to determine the financial feasibility, along with assessing student and alumni interest in the programs, utilizing external consultants to gain as much information as possible.
Hendrix opened its new 100,000 square-foot Wellness and Athletics Center last year, a facility that includes a new artificial turf field that supports the college’s new field hockey and men’s lacrosse programs. The field can also accommodate football. Hendrix will need to raise funds to add infrastructure enhancements, including a new field house to accommodate football and all of the other outdoor sports.