When funded, varsity football will return to Roanoke for the first time since 1942.
The Roanoke College Board of Trustees voted Thursday to support a proposal by President Frank Shushok Jr. to reinstate football as a varsity sport and add varsity cheerleading and marching band co-curricular programs. The proposal was approved on the condition that start-up funding of $1.2 million is in place by June 1. Roanoke College has not had a football team since 1942, when the sport was discontinued because of the constraints of World War II.
Shushok’s proposal upgrades an existing co-curricular cheerleading program to varsity level, creates a co-curricular marching band program, restores varsity football and commits to ongoing academic excellence at Roanoke College. Shushok, who joined Roanoke as its 12th president in July 2022, initiated a feasibility study shortly after his arrival to evaluate the possibility of reinstating football and adding the new programs. The study showed that football, cheerleading and a marching band would increase enrollment and student diversity, elevate campus spirit, attract more visitors to campus and build stronger bonds with the local community.
“Over the academic year, I have had many individual conversations with students, faculty and staff about the potential addition of a football team and associated programs,” Shushok said. “Cultivating a successful football program, along with a marching band and competitive cheer, can breathe life into a college campus, bringing together our faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community in a unified spirit of passion and pride.”
The three new programs will launch only if the needed start-up investment of $1.2 million is secured. Roanoke College has set a June 1 deadline to raise the initial investment. If philanthropic support is secured by the deadline, Roanoke will begin recruiting in 2023 with the goal of fielding a team for a partial season in fall 2024. If the funding is not obtained by June 1, the timeline will be adjusted.
The current plan recommends minimizing costs with a conservative investment and upgrading existing underutilized facilities. Alumni Field would be used for practice and the Bast Center would be upgraded to accommodate locker rooms, training facilities, offices and a weight room. Salem Stadium, a 7,157-seat facility near Roanoke College’s Elizabeth Campus, would be the site of the 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.
After a lengthy break from offering a football program at Roanoke College, Shushok said, “now is the time to rekindle that spark into a flame that will add new life to our campus, enable us to invigorate recruitment and inspire alumni support.”