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Xavier doesn't have football, and that is good for basketball

Xavier hasn't had a football team since 1973. Rather than mourn what they miss, Xavier fans should be happy that the money flows to a successful program.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You may have noticed from all the breathless radio and television coverage, but college football started last night. Yes, that means it's time for 40 year olds to yell at one another about which 19 year old can concuss the other better. This will be mixed in with enough cheerleader shots to make you feel slightly uncomfortable watching the game with your parents, and a small army of guys who will never play milling around on the sidelines and reaping the benefits of the hero status that American culture has, for some reason, bestowed on football players.

In case that first unnecessarily combative sentence didn't clue you in, I am no great lover of college football. Thankfully, this isn't a problem for a supporter of the Xavier Musketeers.  The Musketeers did have a full collegiate squad from 1900 until 1973. The team was actually moderately successful, winning 57.3% of their games and playing in the 1950 Salad Bowl (not a joke). Football was abolished after that 1973 season because of costing the school $200,000. It's mildly amusing to consider that amount significant in this day and age, but back then it ended the team. Club football was available recently, but it to was done away with in 2013.

This leaves basketball as the main attraction at Xavier. With no vestiges of football left, the stadium was demolished in 1988, the focus of most of the student body is solely on the basketball team. Xavier holds a mildly unique position as a non-football school outside the Power 5 that retains a thriving basketball program. It could be that this specialization is what has been such a boon to the program.

In the 2014 season, Xavier spent about $5.2 million on basketball. They turned that into a valuation of $11.2 million according to Forbes, good for 18th in the nation. Going back to 2013, no public school could match that investment of basketball dollars to football dollars other than programs like Rhode Island, Delaware, Illinois State, and so on. In short, Xavier's spending and success are not at all a common occurrence for a non-football school. (Gonzaga also comes to mind).

Encouragingly, Xavier's dedication to renovating the Cintas Center to keep it state of the art and the recent endowment to Coach Mack indicate a strong commitment to maintaining the basketball program. With nothing else to siphon off cash and resources, Xavier has taken a basketball program that had made the NCAA tournament exactly once before 1973, and turned it into a national power. That makes cheering for Xavier a unique experience and something of a matter of pride. With no football, Xavier is defined only by a very successful basketball team. In the end, Xavier wouldn't have spent so many recent seasons in the Sweet 16 if football was also draining the financial coffers. Dancing in March or slogging toward .500 in November isn't a tough decision to make.