The state of Georgia, as we know, is home to some of the finest collegiate football players in the nation. Though we have our own professional sports teams to cheer for, a look at any newspaper will show you just how much Georgians care about our college teams. We cherish football – not only for the entertainment value we get from watching games, but for the cultural significance it has come to have in our lives. We rally around our teams; come together with friends and family to cheer them on; and feel a sense of collective pride in our victories, and shared anguish in our defeats.
HERE AT PAINE College in Augusta, our small student-body size gives us a built-in sense of community and pride. For the past 131 years, the college has prided itself on academic excellence, as well as our fantastic athletic teams. Our core missions of academic excellence and social responsibility, and our deep historic roots in the community, have set us apart from the many colleges and universities in the state.
This fall, we had one more reason to celebrate at Paine. For the first time in more than 50 years, the Paine Lions made a triumphant return to the football field – a decision that was announced last fall with the unanimous support of the college’s Board of Trustees. Under the leadership of Head Coach Greg Ruffin, the club team ended the season with an impressive 3-1 record. More impressive, however, was the outpouring of support and excitement from the alumni community and the local community in Augusta.
Our location in the heart of Augusta always has been one of our most important assets and a defining characteristic of our college. We hope that the return of football will see a boost to the local economy of Augusta in the form of sports-related tourism. Investing in the reinstatement of the football program will pay off not only for our student-athletes, but for our home city as well.
Imagine the positive effect that bringing a football team back to our college will have on our already tremendously spirited student body. A football team will increase not only our athletic visibility in the community and the state, but will mean the creation of a marching band and a drum line in the future, crucial aspects of any football program. All of these changes serve the current student body, but also will attract prospective students to our school. Not only will we attract new students, but we are thrilled to give our alumni something else to cheer for.
FOR PAINE COLLEGE, this is about much more than being competitive on the football field. It is about giving our students, alumni and community something else to rally around and to celebrate. It is about the connection and pride that comes from having our own team, regardless of its record at the end of the season.
(The writer is president of Paine College.)