USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities and play at the college level. Joe is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Looking for an opportunity to play football in college? You may have a significantly higher chance at a brand-new program. When a college makes the decision to establish a new football program, the coaching staff needs to recruit an entire team from scratch. This presents opportunities for student-athletes who want to lock down a roster spot. In many cases, new programs offer more playing time for underclassmen, as well as the excitement of building something from the ground up. Here are 10 new college football programs starting in 2019 and beyond.
Keystone College: 2019
After more than 70 years without a football team, the Keystone College Giants will take the field in fall 2019. Located in La Plume, Pennsylvania, Keystone will play a limited schedule as an independent NCAA Division III team. In 2020, the Giants will seek affiliation with a DIII football conference and play a complete schedule of games. Keystone’s new football program reestablishes a proud gridiron tradition — Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson played football for Keystone from 1895 to 1897 — as it becomes the private school’s 22nd varsity sport.
Clarke University: 2019
The Clarke University Pride will kick off their first season in the NAIA’s Heart of America Athletic Conference in fall 2019. After testing the waters with a scrimmage schedule in the fall of 2018, the Dubuque, Iowa school is gearing up for their first full-length season. Clarke’s Board of Trustees initially voted to make football the school’s 21nd varsity sport in January 2015.
Judson University: 2019
In fall 2019, the Judson University Eagles will begin their first season in the NAIA’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Football is Judson’s 20th varsity sport, and the Christian liberal arts school in Elgin, Illinois is actively working on its recruiting class for the fall of 2019.
Wheeling Jesuit University: 2019
The Wheeling Jesuit University Cardinals will play a full season of football for the first time ever in 2019. After playing an exhibition schedule in 2018–2019, the Catholic school will compete in the NCAA Division II in the Mountain East Conference. Located in Wheeling, West Virginia, football is the school’s 18th varsity sport.
St. Thomas University: 2019
The St. Thomas University Bobcats are planning to kick off their first football season in the Sun Conference in the NAIA. Located in Miami Gardens, Florida, St. Thomas will add football as the school’s 15th varsity sports program. The team conducted practices this past spring in anticipation of the fall 2019 season.
Barton College: 2020
The Barton College Bulldogs are bringing back their varsity football team in fall 2020. Located in Wilson, North Carolina, the DII school last fielded a football team in 1950 — then known as Atlantic Christian College. The school will begin intercollegiate play in 2020 and recently signed a scheduling alliance with the South Atlantic Conference, an NCAA Division II league fielding teams in Tennessee and North and South Carolina. Football will be the school’s 21st varsity sports program.
Erskine College: 2020
The Erskine College Flying Fleet are also planning to reinstate their varsity football team. After discontinuing their football team at the close of the 1951 season, the Due West, South Carolina college will bring it back in fall 2020. The Flying Fleet will compete in the Conference Carolinas in Division II. Football will be the school’s 22nd varsity sports program.
Florida Memorial University: 2020
After a 61-year hiatus, the Florida Memorial University Lions will bring back football in fall 2020. The last football game played by the Lions — then known as Florida Normal and Industrial Institute — was a 14-8 victory over Albany State in 1958. Located in Miami Gardens, Florida, FMU’s new football program will compete in the Sun Conference in the NAIA. Football will be the school’s ninth varsity sports program.
Madonna University: 2020
The Madonna University Crusaders will field a varsity football team for the first time in fall 2020. Located in Livonia, Michigan, the private, Catholic, liberal arts school will complete in the NAIA’s Mid-States Football Association. As the school’s 20th varsity sports team, the football team will spend the 2019–2020 season practicing and preparing for its official debut in 2020.
Mount Marty College: 2022
In fall 2022, the Mount Marty College Lancers are hoping to bring back varsity football for the first time since the close of Yankton College in 1984. Located in Yankton, South Dakota, the school will compete in the NAIA’s Great Plains Athletic Conference. Football will be the school’s nineteenth varsity sports program.
Benefits of getting recruited by new college football programs
New programs can offer increased chances of securing a roster spot and earning more playing time. While many programs require athletes to practice hard and ride the bench for a couple years before carving out a starting role, a new program may not be able to field a full roster right away. This could mean you’ll get thrown into the action from day one.
Another bonus — the chance to build a lasting legacy during your time in college. Helping start something new and receiving recognition from the student body and local community can be quite rewarding. In addition, you’ll likely have the chance to develop a close relationship with the coaching staff.