Jacksonville Dolphins discontinuing football program, effective immediately

By Kevin Kelley -

The Jacksonville University Dolphins will no longer play football and will discontinue its Division I program, effective immediately, the school announced on Tuesday.

Jacksonville has played in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League since 1998. The Dolphins finished the 2019 season 3-9 overall and 1-7 in conference action.

“As a University, we are investing and innovating to match our offerings to the 21st century marketplace and to support the diverse demands and interests of our students,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “This investment profile requires careful analysis, realistic planning and – occasionally – difficult decisions to help drive us forward to excellence.”

“This was a difficult decision,” said Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert. “Our student-athletes and coaches in the football program are talented, tenacious and hard working. We respect them immensely. Reinvesting these resources into our other Division I programs better positions us to enhance the experience for all 450 student-athletes.”

To aid in the transition, the school is offering full tuition scholarships to every football student-athlete who chooses to remain at Jacksonville University through graduation. Additionally, Jacksonville University will honor the employment agreements for all football coaches and is “offering enhanced resources to assist in their job search.”

“We look forward to fully supporting our football student-athletes and coaches as they pursue the next steps in their academic, athletic and professional careers,” said President Cost.

Jacksonville only had one future non-conference opponent on their schedule — a trip to face the Dartmouth Big Green on Sept. 19, 2020. The contest was the second of a home-and-home series that began in Jacksonville this season. Dartmouth won that game 35-6.

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Comments (8)

Jacksonville played in the non scholarship Pioneer league, but are offering full tuition scholarships to all football players who stay?

How many players will now get scholarships or better scholarships than they had before?

I understand that “non scholarship” means they are not giving football scholarships and players could get scholarships for other reasons, but really I do not understand this part of the announcement.

This is unfortunate, but I suspect there will be a wave of additional schools making this decision over the next 10-15 years.

We are entering a secular downturn in the number of college-age students due to a birth rate decline that began in the early part of last decade.

Declining numbers of college students will compound acute financial pressures that many universities are increasingly facing. Preserving money-losing athletic programs, particularly football, which also has safety and insurance issues, will become increasingly challenging for many, many universities in the years ahead.

Good luck to Dartmouth AD Harry Sheehy lining up a replacement game, ideally in Hanover, on nine months’ notice.

Dartmouth could get a Division II school in perhaps? Although the PFL is now down to 9, and all of them are short one game… Dartmouth can help them by picking up a game, and the other 8 pair up?

The PFL teams aren’t necessarily all down one because they play an 8-game conference schedule. They’ll just shuffle the conference matchups.

There are probably a few FCS schools that still have openings, plus Tarleton State is moving up and needs games.

Perhaps Dartmouth will have to go DII to get a game, but I can’t remember an Ivy playing a DII opponent in football, so it would definitely be an atypical move ….. perhaps they would be just as likely to play an FBS opponent.

Same thing happened to UAB 5 years ago, it was such an up roar about it, U of A was forced to bring them back & they did. Not sure if this is the same situation or not. Not sure if there is a bigger university backing the Dolphins but may be the city can if they want the team back in the future.

JU plays in a stadium that seats 5,000, which implies the program has a fairly narrow following and that it is not broadly backed by the city, which, happily, has the Jaguars to focus on.

Six JU home games in 2019. Total attendance of 10,842. That’s 1,807 per game. If this program is losing a seven-digit amount of money per year, which I have to guess it is, then I think it’s difficult to see a path to salvation.

Too expensive and not enough people care.

But, to be sure, an unfortunate outcome.