TOUCHDOWN? An Analysis of Football’s Impact on Clarke University

It had been a brisk morning. Grandma had decided she did not want to go to the tailgate at 8:00 but sleep a bit longer. At a more reasonable time, we decided to get ready. In every room, we were donning the school colors, not wanting to go overboard with school spirit, but also not too tame. Everyone piled into the minivan. My brother was talking about how we were finally doing something fun and grandma was confused why we were going to the high school football field instead of the new one at Clarke. We explained it was not regulation, but Dalzell Field was. As we got closer to the school, traffic got thicker to the point we were sitting waiting for cars to move a good three blocks away. I was very surprised. I had not expected this many people. Most of my friends were not going to the game and for all of the other sports games I had watched like volleyball or baseball; the stands had been fairly empty. People were streaming into the bleachers. When we walked through the gate at the field, and saw the stands packed with yellow and blue. There were banners and flags flapping everywhere and everyone was wearing Clarke merchandise and anticipation on their face. I felt a sort of pride for my school. Clarke University’s first ever football game was going to be met with thunderous applause.

It seems like Clarke has been trying to get football on the roster my entire college career. It was the passion project for President Joanne Burrows. Before leaving, she ensured Clarke had a football field, now called Burrows Field, and that the football team would be the “Pride” of Clarke, the pride of Dubuque really. Burrows raised money and got grants to build the field over the years. Clarke spent most of 2018 under construction. With the Fall semester of 2019, Clarke is able to play its first football game ever. It truly was a historic day for Clarke students and alumni. The first ever football game for Clarke University ever.

Now to be totally honest, not everyone was excited about football coming to Clarke. Students did not want Clarke to become solely sports focused and while the field was being built and players given scholarships, fine arts majors, such as Music, Spanish, and the BFA for Art Majors, were cut along with the Theatre program. Many students felt they had been forgotten by Clarke and still feel an animosity for these decisions. I for one am an art major and cried when we heard the news of all these majors being cut. My friends were devastated and many of them blamed football. Many of them did not go to the football game. They asked why we had spent all this money on a football field if we could not hold games there, why should we have a newly built weight room when there is water dripping in all the classrooms. It felt like the school was split in half, between liberal arts and sports. The liberal arts felt abandoned and students blamed sports, but this is also harmful for students in sports, feeling unjustly guilty because they are powerless in this situation.

This is a big problem for Clarke. Our school prides itself for its community. One of the first things they tell you when you tour the school is you call your teachers by their first name. Because Clarke is a small school, it has to sell a close environment that larger schools lack. As football joins Clarke, it has to remember to not fall into the same pitfalls of larger schools, listen to the community is has built, don’t implement things just because it will bring in money.

On that note, this article is not meant to bad mouth football of Clarke. In fact, I want to convince those that are upset with Clarke and sports that it could be a good thing. Of course, the beginning was very controversial and caused conflict among the students, but it is here to stay now. Football is not going anywhere and has been helpful for Clarke. After going to many Clarke events, games, and activities, I have never seen a turn out like that on August 31st. So many people outside of Clarke came to cheer on the new team. I felt proud to go to Clarke, which has not been a common feeling lately. The Clarke emblem was everywhere, everyone cheered loudly and enthusiastically for the team. When the team ran onto the field, and I sat next to my grandma who is an alumnus from Clarke, the energy of the game was infectious, and I cheered so loud I was hoarse the next day.

Now Clarke did not win of course, everyone knows that by now. It was their first ever game and all of the players were young and unexperienced, but that did not lessen the enthusiasm of the crowd whenever they made a touchdown. In an interview with Miguel Regalado, head football coach at Clarke, he said the team is “only going to get better from hear and out” and I believe our welcome of them also needs to get better. I saw such support in those stands, why does it only come from those outside of Clarke? Just like other colleges, Clarke students should feel proud of their football team, it’s a generator of good feelings towards the school from the community, just like theatre, and the art department. A football player named Tyre Hall shared with us that a couple kids asked him to sign their little footballs after the game, and after losing the game, Hall said that it was “one of those things that made your day.” Hall felt that as the first Clarke football players, “we are role models” and it is through their actions and behaviors that “establishes what it meant to be part of the team.” As football is so new, we can still establish how we interact with the football team. If we treat them like the bad guys, they are going to feel like the bad guys. Clarke needs to embrace all aspects of its student body and in turn, this is not the time for Clarke students to become divided. We need to stick together and make the changes we want to see in our school. So, basically support the football team, they are trying their best to be something Clarke can be proud of and shunning them like this is not the way to make things better.

–by Charlotte Rodewald

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