It's been almost a year since officials at Winthrop announced they would be willing to look into the feasibility of adding football to the athletic program, if someone in the private sector would be willing to put up the money to get the program off the ground.
Tom Hickman, Winthrop's director of athletics, is still waiting for the first phone call from someone willing to kick in the majority or all of the estimated $18 million it would take to get the ball rolling.
"I haven't had any calls except for some people saying they'd be willing to buy season tickets if we got the program started," Hickman said on Thursday.
"And I've gotten some e-mails from people saying they're glad we're taking a look at it.
"But there's not been any real change, any movement on it."
No call or e-mail from some high roller with several million burning a hole in his or her expensive leather wallet has come, and that means football remains a very distant dream at Winthrop.
In October, Winthrop president Anthony DiGiorgio and Hickman presented the extensive and complete study a university committee had produced. There were several major points.
The university wasn't in a position to foot the bill to start football. DiGiorgio made it plain the school would not try to produce a program "on the cheap." And football wouldn't be taken on at the detriment of other sports programs or outside the overall mission of the university.
In other words, it would be done right or not at all.
That remains the plan.
With the economy struggling and with the start-up cost for football far more than just pocket change, Hickman says "yes and no" when asked if he's surprised no one has come forward with even the slightest offer of financial help.
"Some people have even told me they thought we put out those big numbers just to discourage folks," Hickman said, "but that is not the case. The president and I would both be in favor of starting football if we could, because we've seen the studies that indicate how much it adds to the general spirit of the student body."
But those numbers -- $18 million or so just to start and more than $2 million per year in annual operational costs -- are accurate. Well, actually they were accurate.
It's been almost a year since those numbers were quoted, and that's when gas seemed like a bargain at $2.77 a gallon and the economy in general wasn't great but better than now.
"I wouldn't guess it would be," Hickman said, "but the cost probably wouldn't be $18 million now."
Hickman said the university isn't out beating the bushes for donors, either. If Winthrop is going to solicit funds, it will be for projects already on the table and others long overdue, like renovations to the golf course and building another practice facility for basketball and volleyball. Golf course renovations, which have been discussed for several years now, are next up, but given the state of the economy, Hickman isn't sure when those will start.
Hickman says the addition of artificial turf at District Three Stadium is "a good thing," and that would help if Winthrop had a team and had to play there. But stadium costs remain the single biggest expenditure and District Three would need a complete facelift in order to provide a sufficient venue to attract fans, lure sponsors and, most importantly, attract recruits.
And Winthrop's student population needs to grow as well. Hickman said the university would need a student body of between 7,500-8,000 to provide the athletic fees necessary to support football.
Right now, Winthrop has about 6,600 students.
There's much to be done, and there are other issues to address.
The athletic program needs to add more opportunities for women. Hickman said he expects women's swimming to be the next addition, perhaps in a couple of years.
Figuring ways to pay for what needs to be done is a challenge, which is why the university can't undertake starting a football program on its own.
Football continues to be a dream, but Hickman said the door is still open, even if it would cost more than the $18 million projected a year ago.
"If someone calls with $18 million," he said, smiling, "we'd probably find a way to get the rest."
He's waiting to take your call.