Roanoke College has raised more than $1.3 million in funding that will allow the school to move forward with plans to reinstate football as a varsity sport and add co-curricular varsity cheerleading and marching band programs. Approximately $300,000 of the funds raised were contributed by local corporate sponsors. In April, the Roanoke College Board of Trustees approved a proposal to add the programs — on the condition that start-up funding of $1.2 million was in place by June 1.
The College’s current plan recommends minimizing costs with a conservative investment and upgrading existing underutilized facilities. Alumni Field will be used for practice and the Bast Center will be upgraded to accommodate locker rooms, training facilities, offices and a weight room. The plan is for Salem Stadium, a 7,157-seat facility near Roanoke College’s Elizabeth Campus, to be the site of future games. Salem Stadium is already the home of Salem High School’s Spartans, and it hosted the NCAA Division III Football Championship, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, for many years.
A feasibility study implemented shortly after President Frank Shushok Jr.’s arrival at Roanoke College evaluated the possibility of adding football, marching band and competitive cheerleading. The study showed that the programs would increase enrollment and student diversity, elevate campus spirit, attract more visitors to campus and build stronger bonds with the local community. The College has not had a football team since 1942. Roanoke currently has a club cheerleading squad.
“The response to our fundraising has been incredible,” said Kim Blair ‘93, vice president of advancement. “So many members of our community are energized by the idea of a new football team at Roanoke — plus the spirit that a marching band and cheer team can bring. Our Maroon community and local Roanoke Valley partners stepped forward in a big way with the investments we need now. We are thankful for their commitment to help us grow and thrive. We met our first goal, and I’m optimistic about what the future holds.”
The initial funds raised will be used to hire coaches and meet start-up needs including equipment, uniforms and renovation of space for the three programs. Roanoke College’s athletic director will commission the process for selecting a football coach, and player recruitment will take place over the next year.
Earlier this week, Roanoke College announced that Curtis Campbell was selected as the new director of athletics. Campbell will work with college leadership, the Athletics Department and other invested partners to reintroduce football in 2024. “I am thrilled to work alongside Roanoke College leaders to reinstate a successful football program, along with marching band and competitive cheer. One of the first things we will do is begin the search process for coaches and determine how best to maximize space and secure the equipment needed to launch successfully,” Campbell said.
The football program will start as a club sport in fall 2024 and work toward becoming a varsity program in 2025. The goal is to recruit 50 football players, 50 band members and 30 competitive cheerleaders as part of the fall 2024 entering class. Roanoke College’s incoming vice president of enrollment management, James Pennix, said, “I am confident that the addition of football, marching band and competitive cheer can grow Roanoke’s enrollment base, boost school spirit and attract new students. There is no better time to be joining my alma mater and the enrollment team. I am excited about these additions and the possibilities to impact the campus community.”