Patriot League Further Delays Football Scholarship Vote

by Tom Felice
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2 Year Delay Puts Onus of Fordham

The Patriot League announced yesterday that they have decided to defer a vote on offering athletic scholarships for Football.

This decision comes after the Council of the Presidents met on Tuesday. They do not plan to vote on this issue again for two years, giving them more time to study the pros and cons of the potential aid structures.

In a joint statement released by the Council of the Presidents, they announced, "We had discussions about various financial aid models and recognized and evaluated the benefits as well as the potential costs associated with athletic merit aid for football. League presidents expressed their commitment to the stability and long-term positioning of the League."

This is not the first time the Patriot League has tabled a vote on going to athletic scholarships or remaining with need base aid only for football. It was anticipated when Fordham announced they were giving athletic scholarships that the matter would be settled by the Patriot League by the end of 2010.

The league began to give athletic merit based scholarships in 1998 for basketball, and in all sports except football in 2001.

Fordham announced they would begin to give athletic scholarships for football June 5, 2009, and the 2010 season was the first year with scholarship players. By giving scholarships, the Rams are no longer eligible for the league title, and the automatic NCAA berth which comes with it. They played all Patriot League teams in 2010, and will do so in 2011 and 2012 as well.

Fordham is the only member of the Patriot League that gives athletic scholarships in football , the other six football playing members give need based scholarships.

Fordham Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin had no comment on the matter, after conferring with the President of Fordham, The Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J.

So what does this mean for Fordham.

Fordham is already scheduled to play all the Patriot League teams in 2011 and 2012, so it has no immediate effect. The athletic department is in the process of putting together the schedules for the years after that, so the ball is back in Fordham's court.

Fordham will need to start putting together plans for 2013 and beyond much sooner than the next expected vote, December 2012. Fordham could sit back and wait for the vote, perhaps setting themselves up for a much longer period without an NCAA automatic birth, no matter the Patriot League move at that point. They could also choose to go independent, or find another conference. The Colonial Athletic Conference is really the only conference that fits the profile of Fordhams goals.

It has been a year since CAA members Northeastern and Hofstra dropped football, and Rhode Island announced last month that they will leave the CAA in football for the Northeast Conference in 2013. The CAA is becoming a much more southern based conference, as Old Dominion joins the conference in football in 2011 and Georgia State follows in 2012. There are even rumors that CAA member UMASS is looking at joining the Football Bowl Subdivision Mid-Atlantic Conference, which would push the center of the league further south.

Fordham has made the commitment to their football program with athletic scholarships and beginning to schedule FBS level teams. Big East champion UCONN and Armed Forces Bowl bound Army on the schedule for 2011, with both Army and Navy on future schedules. They now have to make a choice that’s much bigger than one game.