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Feb 02, 2015 10:43 PM EST

Clarke University to Add Football Program for 2018


Clarke University in Iowa is starting up its first-ever varsity football team beginning in the fall of 2018, school officials announced.

The university's Board of Trustees voted Friday morning to add football to its intercollegiate lineup. The addition of football will bring to 19 the number of intercollegiate sports sponsored by Clarke. The team will compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in a conference to be determined.

"This is an exciting opportunity for us; a challenging and exciting adventure that will move Clarke University forward," Clarke President Joanne Burrows said in a statement. "Beginning football at a university founded by women religious may at first seem to be a daring decision, but the history of Clarke University -- making the move to a coeducational institution, changing the name from college to university -- is filled with similarly bold choices."

Adding football is an element of the 2012-17 Strategic Plan at Clarke and the school has been looking at the prospect of adding the sport for many years.

The task force found that football will not only increase enrollment, but would also increase vibrancy and school spirit on campus.

Another noteworthy benefit would be to increase ties with the community. Clarke has established a strong relationship with Dubuque Senior High School, located across the street from Clarke. The university is currently in discussion with the Dubuque Community School District about utilizing Dalzell Field for Clarke's football competitions. This would be an expansion of the university's current agreement with the district to use the venue for track.

Board of Trustees Chair Margaret Mary Cosgrove, BVM, said the decision marks a new era for Clarke.

"The topic sparked a very productive discussion among board members," she said. "As a board, we are looking forward to the next phase of Clarke's growth. We are confident this will attract new students and further enrich the already vibrant campus life at Clarke."

Also, a football program would further Clarke's opportunity to provide educational opportunities through athletics.

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