University debates PL football scholarships

By Sara Blair Matthews


The impending decision to permit athletic merit scholarships for Patriot League football programs is expected to be made over the next few weeks. If the Patriot League President’s Council decides to go through with these scholarships, the University would potentially add roughly three to five additional scholarships for football student-athletes per year.

The proposition has received mixed reviews on campus. Currently, the University awards some form of merit aid to student athletes in 10 of its 27 Division I sports
“Clearly we will have to remain sensitive to the many implications of any decision to permit merit aid in football,” President John Bravman said in an email to University faculty. If the new policy is implemented, head football coach Joe Susan expects the biggest change to be the demographic of the team.
“It has been difficult to recruit the middle-class kid. It is difficult to attract that kind of athlete when we can only offer him half [off his tuition],” Susan said.
He thinks this new policy could give the University a better chance against Ivy League schools, who utilize their large endowments in the recruiting process.
“The more success you have in sports, the better feel a university has for itself. A winning season can really start off the year in the right way,” Susan said. Alternatively, Andre Shields ’12 offensive line player, does not think that this policy will change much if it is passed.
“[Realistically] we’re not going to let great football players come who [aren’t smart enough] to handle the academics,” Shields said.
Shields believes scholarships will allow students to come who couldn’t ordinarily given their financial circumstances.
“It will level the playing field,” Shields said.
Last year, the University was ranked fourth nationally for its student-athlete graduation rate. John Enyeart, associate professor of history, along with many other faculty, believes the University uses this ranking as a crutch to justify its increasing focus on sports. “I am concerned that we are getting farther and farther away from our academic mission [as a school],” Enyeart said. “For many, studying is no longer a top priority.”
For Enyeart, it is hard to see how the scholarships will make the University more competitive in the Patriot League. He believes the money could be better spent on academic departments and facilities.
“The Patriot League was put on the map not for offering scholarships to basketball, football and other athletes,” Enyeart said.
As this issue continues to be debated, more controversy will likely ensue in the coming weeks.
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