The title of “Undefeated since 1976” may be relinquished by UCR sooner rather than later. With the school expanding at a fervent pace, the time is ripe for the return of UCR football. Prior to the folding of the team in 1975, the Highlanders had posted an undefeated league record and won the conference championship in the previous two years under Head Coach Bob Toledo. Following the demise of UCR football, Toledo continued coaching and went on to eventually win Pac-10 Coach of the Year at UCLA in 1998. Despite having compiled an 84-83-8 record in 21 total seasons, UCR recorded 32 wins and only nine losses in its last four years.
“Money is the only reason,” a disheartened Toledo told the Ellensburg Daily Record days following the announcement that the football program would be discontinued. When it comes to sports, the generation of revenue starts with attendance. While the massive increase in overall attendance would contribute to a UCR football team attracting enough people, there are other reasons that make now more viable than ever for the reemergence of Highlander football. One would be that there will be space to build facilities for a football program, as the family student housing area is designated to be replaced by an entertainment center and other amenities. This area could be a perfect place for a football stadium and a parking lot that could be utilized for students in the daytime to further accommodate for the expanding fanbase.
Another justification for the return of UCR football in the next several years is the overall job security and performance of Athletic Director Tamica Smith Jones. Highlander athletics have only continued to grow under Smith Jones, and she will have more time to establish herself before a football program returned not only because of the time it would take to reintegrate such a large program and to rebuild a stadium, but also because of the fact that she was just recently hired. With such a strong start, a football program would allow Smith Jones to further improve her network of recruiting which may lead to recruits in other sports catching wind of UCR as well. Finally, with Division I standing, UCR would have the appeal of being qualified to play in the FBS to take on the bigger names that bring in millions of dollars with their football program. Right now, it just seems like all the stars are aligning for the return of the pigskin to Riverside.