The Troy University football team has had a dry spell of victories in recent seasons, despite an impressive start to its FBS tenure, bringing some to question the Trojans’ place in college football’s top division.
But before getting into that, it is important to know where the team came from.
Troy University football had its beginnings under the moniker of Troy Normal School in 1909. The team ended its inaugural season with a win and two ties. In the era of Trojan lore that predates its entrance into the hallowed FBS, the team claims three national titles. The years of those triumphs are etched into the structure of Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Trojans officially began competing as a Division I team in 2001 under Larry Blakeney. Before the transition, the Trojans found victory in 57.8 percent of their games, excluding ties. That percentage dropped to 50.6 percent after 2001.
Troy’s collegiate football history spans 92 years before the dawn of the FBS. The Trojans were marginally more successful in their FCS lifetime, from a wins-versus-loss viewpoint.
The marriage of Trojan football with the FBS system is but 15 years old. In that time, the Trojans earned five bowl appearances, garnering two victories in those appearances. The same amount of time in the prior tournament system yielded a win percentage of 52.3 percent.
Along with the divisional transition, the Trojans’ home stadium was given its most recent face-lift. Veterans Memorial Stadium completed its most recent expansion in 2003 to encompass 30,000 fans, an attendance number the Trojans have yet to reach for a home football game. They’ve gotten close, setting a record of 29,013 attendees in September 2012 against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The stadium has seen 24,000 of its seats filled only six times.
Of late, the wins column for the Trojans has been as bare as the stands forced to bear witness to this year’s dismal display. Should the Trojans revert back to an FCS team? Different stats give myriad answers to this question.
Is it better to throw funds at a program until it becomes successful or drop down to avoid potentially temporary embarrassment? The Trojan football program benefits the school financially, but how well does it quench the fan’s thirst for victory?
To answer those questions is to only look at the surface of the problem. The query that should be posed is: What is the purpose of athletics on a collegiate level? Does it exist to entertain fans and students while filling trophy cabinets? Or is its purpose to fill the school’s wallet?
A pragmatist would say a common ground can be found between these extremes. A realist, however, would tell you that common ground has yet to be found.
The picture of college football is far from two-dimensional. Rather, it is a fresco painted by short patience and long memories. The college football fan is a fickle creature, wanting positive results immediately and rarely calm through transition.
Simply put, fans want victory. If they are willing to lose the luster of the FBS, then that is a bandage that needs to be swiftly removed. If they are content with the weekly disappointment in hopes of future triumph, they will have to stop crying as the bandages are applied.