Erie Community College's new football program would be easier to cheer if the college wasn't already battling tight budgets. Democratic county legislators are right to be concerned about possible spiraling costs associated with starting a new athletic program.
This is a college, after all, that is yet to create a new state-of-the-art dental lab -- a project in limbo for at least two years and not likely to see completion until late spring, at the earliest. Yet it's tapping county coffers to fast-track a football opening this fall.
Concern is merited. Despite promises by ECC President William J. Mariani that student fees and taxpayer dollars would not be tapped for the $250,000 cost of football facilities on the South Campus, the college has asked -- and received -- permission from the County Legislature to dip into a county-controlled fund for half of the cost of bleachers. The total cost of the bleachers is $435,000, with half reimbursed by the state.
ECC runs under a tight budget, and a new football program can't become a black hole for scarce cash resources.
ECC officials say more than sport is at stake. Football programs at junior colleges are becoming a trend, they argue, and help to boost student enrollment.
Already, a slight increase in spring enrollment is being attributed in part to the new program. That's an early assessment that should be re-examined in June, when the ECC budget is put on the table.
The college also might consider other funding sources, such as community support or alumni contributions, for a football program. If enrollment does increase because of football, as college officials hope, then hail to the ECC football Kats -- but let's make sure the numbers crunch as well as the tackles.