Cloudy football future in St. Cloud
Before the Huskies open the Division II football playoffs at home, they anxiously await the results of voting on student fees, which could decide if the school will field a team next year.
St. Cloud State campaigned for years to get an adequate football home, and it finally arrived in 2004 with the opening of Husky Stadium. The 4,200-seat facility includes artificial turf, a grandstand and press box, and an up-close view of the Mississippi River.
The women's soccer team will continue to enjoy this fine venue for years to come. There's no such certainty for the Huskies football team, which could be playing its last home game ever when Hillsdale [Mich.] College arrives Saturday for a first-round meeting in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Students have been voting this week on whether to approve two increases in the activities fee -- one for 74 cents per credit and a second for an additional $1 a credit. Presumably, if both were to pass, draconian cuts to athletics would not be necessary and football would be saved.
The voting concludes Wednesday. And if the referendums fail, the odds are strong that university President Earl Potter will end the school's 88-year tradition of playing football.
Potter and Morris Kurtz, the long-serving athletic director, made this clear with the announcement in mid-August that dropping football was an option for dealing with projected deficits of $500,000 in athletics in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference saw Potter's threat to drop football as serious enough to have its board of directors take this stand three weeks ago: Football is now among the required sports, and any member not fielding a team will be dropped from the 14-school conference.
Amid this uncertainty, coach Scott Underwood's Huskies put together a 9-2 season and advanced to the Division II playoffs for the third time. The others came in 1989 and 2004. The infrequency of postseason play didn't dissuade the Huskies from preseason optimism.
"We expected to be a playoff team,'' Underwood said. "We opened at Augustana, had a nine-point lead with nine minutes to play and let the game get away. We went back to work.''