The FCS may have another new team in the next few years. Chicago State is in an all-out fundraising blitz with the ultimate hope of adding a football team as soon as the 2025 season.
In January 2023, Chicago State formed an exploratory committee to look at adding football. Fast forward eight months and the Board of Trustees at Chicago State has approved the proposal for a new fundraising campaign with a set goal of $4 million. The school also approved the addition of a women’s triathlon program beginning in 2024-25 as a sign of its commitment to this endeavor.
If the school hits the $4 million goal, FCS football will be headed to the South Side of Chicago. It’s fair to say there’s a long way to go before Chicago State officially adds a football team along with additional obstacles and unanswered questions.
While the school has committed to playing in the FCS should it reach its fundraising goal, the question becomes: which conference? Currently, Chicago State is a Division 1 independent school and has been since leaving the WAC after the 2021-22 academic year. The Pioneer Football League makes sense if they want to play FCS football but not a lot of sense if a scholarship program is required to join a prospective conference. According to Matt Brown of Extra Points, Chicago State is looking at a scholarship program, which would rule out the PFL.
On top of that, adding football at a scholarship level is a move likely designed to help the school’s prospect of moving to a conference. Both the MEAC and Ohio Valley Conference have been previously rumored as possible destinations for full membership. Perhaps an affiliate membership in football is the pathway to full membership in a new conference.
Chicago State would also need to fund an entire football staff along with equipment, scholarships, and additional support staff. As noted by Extra Points, a stadium may not be an obstacle at the FCS level if they use a local high school or even SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. There’s no telling what the long-term plan is for the stadium situation should the addition of a football team become a reality.
Finally, we arrive at the timeline. The school has an anticipated start date for the football team to be Fall 2025 assuming they reach their fundraising goal and no additional issues arise. That is quite ambitious if we compare it to another FCS school that is committed to starting in 2025: UT Rio Grande Valley. UTRGV was first reported to start its football team in September 2021 and even that reporting had a 2025 starting season. It wasn’t until November 2022 when UTRGV officially announced it was starting a football team and the 2025 season was reaffirmed. Chicago State’s timeline isn’t impossible but it’s quite difficult on its own and that already assumes there aren’t any fundraising issues or hiring delays.
Photo courtesy of Chicago State University Athletics