Sunner: Heartland Classic proves WSU isn’t ready for football


Morgan Anderson

Freshman quarterback, Jordan Cooper, runs the ball around defenders during the first quarter of the game against the Bulldogs.

In years past, football fans from across Wichita have pleaded their cases for a Shocker football team to make a triumphant return to campus. Even late Wichita State President John Bardo posted a cryptic tweet in 2016 with a mock-up football helmet that created buzz across the city.

This past weekend, a college football game between four-year universities was played for the first time inside Cessna Stadium in about 15 years. The Heartland Classic was played between historic Langston University and McPherson College, and even had a Hall of Fame enshrinement for Willie Jeffries, a former Shocker football coach.

In a sense, I believe this was a failed test from WSU by the Wichita community. Let me explain.

It’s not that often that football comes to Wichita State, and the community turnout, other than the respected schools’ fan-bases, was a disappointment. There just simply wasn’t many outsider fans in the stadium on Saturday.

It shouldn’t matter who is playing for people to turn out. Do you really expect every person at a Division-I or NFL football game is a fan of one of the teams? No, not even close. I know many people who don’t even like the sport that will travel to make a game, so why couldn’t the Wichita community do that on Saturday?

The next item of discussion that was disappointing during the game, was Jeffries ceremony during halftime. Part of being a fan is accepting the past, and praising it for what it’s worth. Jeffries was more than a coach for the Shockers, he was a national icon. Not only did he help coach WSU to winning seasons, but he was also the first African-American football coach in NCAA history.

And you “football” fans couldn’t even show up for that?

Now, I’m not calling anyone out per se, but logic has to come into play. The turnout by the Wichita community for the first Heartland Classic was embarrassing. It also proved that this school isn’t ready to take on a fan-base that may not even show up to its own games.

On top of that, the cost of bringing a football team back is a tremendous financial commitment. Back in 2018, Bardo spoke with The Sunflower on the costs and other hurdles it would have to jump through in order for a team to be in the works. Those hurdles?

Money from the outside.

According to a 69-page feasibility report in 2016, a $40 million price tag would be set on a startup facility and an estimated $6 million annual budget would be needed for an FBS program. But that was three years ago, so logically, the price tag would have likely gone up. These numbers would also include at least $30 million for a practice facility, and updates to Cessna Stadium to make it ADA certified.

More money would have to emerge if the school wanted to scrap the old football stadium, and build a new one. But let’s not even go into those details at this time.

“What it boiled down to was everybody wants it, nobody wants to pay for it,” Bardo said in 2016. “[Football] is not something we’re going to spend a lot of time on unless the external situation changes where people change and decide to put money into it.”

Bardo brought up a good point when he stated no one wanted to pay for it. If he said no one is willing to pay for it, then what has changed? Anyone out there willing to do so?

In conclusion, this whole ordeal proves that this school, and city, are not ready for the commitment of a football team. If you want to change my mind, start attending games on campus. Families, bring your kids to them, it’s a great learning experience. But unless something changes, Wichita State won’t be bringing it back any time soon.