Despite difficult budget times the sport of football is expanding at colleges and universities across the country. A report from the National Football Foundation says eight new programs will debut this season with 17 more set to launch in the next couple of years. Nearly two dozen other schools are considering a similar move.

Drake University athletic director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb says football is expanding because more schools are trying to attract men to their campus. She says there are a higher percentage of women attending college now and she says this allows them to get more men on campus.

Hatfield-Club says football allows them to target their recruiting, “We target high character student athletes. We target people who’re very interested in seeking a degree.”

Two of the new programs coming on board are at Stetson and Mercer. Both will join the Pioneer Football League of which Drake is a member. Hatfield-Clubb says many of the schools adding football are choosing the non scholarship route. She says it’s an attractive brand of football where you don’t have to make as big an investment in the program for scholarships.

Hatfield-Clubb says they frequently hear from schools who are considering adding football and are always asked about the benefits of having the sport. She says it is “a tone setter” for the campus.

The report says three dozen new college football programs have started playing in the past six years.