MARION - Indiana Wesleyan University has approved plans to start a football program on the Marion campus in the fall of 2017. Startup costs for the new program are expected to run between $12 million and $15 million. The university says $6-$9 million of that would include a stadium to seat up to 4,000 fans. IWU is considering a handful of on-campus sites for the football-only complex.

The university is conducting a nationwide search for the program's first head coach. It's first recruiting class will be on campus, all red-shirts, in 2017. Games are expected to begin Fall of 2018 and the team is aiming to join the NAIA's Mid-States Football Association, which also includes Taylor University in Upland and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.

Football will be the 18th intercollegiate sport at IWU and the first additional men's sport in more than 45 years. The school recently added women's swimming and diving, which were identified along with football as potential targets for sports expansion. The concept of a new football team was first broached in 2010 and later abandoned. University interest was revived in 2014 as a way to: expand the school's mission, increase enrollment, increase diversity and to add "esprit de corps" on the Grant County campus.

Director of Athletics Mark DeMichael says "following our study with the consulting firm they came back and recommended that we consider adding intercollegiate football. We are here to make Indiana Wesleyan stronger and more sustainable. Adding 105-130 more students who will excel in the classroom is a great long term thing for Indiana Wesleyan University."

The board gave final approval for football on Friday. "After careful and thorough study and consideration of the benefits of adding to our athletic program, we are pleased to announce that the IWU Board of Trustees approved the addition of football as our 18th intercollegiate sport. Their affirmation of this significant new initiative demonstrates their recognition and appreciation of the sustained mission and excellence of our athletic program," said IWU President David Wright. "We are grateful for the many ways our athletic program fulfills our mission to develop students in character, scholarship, and leadership and we are eager to welcome and support these new athletes who will join us in the very near future."

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