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Non-Scholarship Direction - What Does It Mean?

No, seriously, could anyone really blame the Dayton Flyer for looking this smug?

After all, as was reported by me on College Sporting News, Dayton's Pioneer Football League (or PFL for short) is now the one-stop shop for non-scholarship football. Their commissioner, Ms. Patty Viverito, has gladly taken the leadership for Division I non-scholarship football coast-to-coast, and has shown more than half a dozen other Division I schools (that don't currently have football) the benefits of playing at that level.

Here in the East, the message is clear for those schools in the MAAC who in 2008 have found themselves without a conference (Marist, Iona, and LaSalle): Step up to our vision of non-scholarship football, be willing to travel, and compete to win, and we'd be happy to have you.

From my perspective, it looks to me like none of the three programs are planning to drop football altogether. LaSalle has just finished $2.5 million in football stadium improvements, and Marist has also made big structural investments in football as well. For its part, Iona also remains committed to football as well. “We’re now looking to see what our other league options are,” said Patrick Lyons, Iona’s Athletic director. “Iona is committed to football and we are hopeful we will find a good situation for our team.”

There are some other interesting sidelights to this meeting, involving the interest of Lipscomb and Campbell in non-scholarship football (which would mean that along with Gardner-Webb and Jacksonville, four schools in the east-coast based Atlantic Sun conference would sponsor football). That could mean Marist, Iona, LaSalle or all three could join that conference as associates and make a new pole of East Coast non-scholarship football (and include Davidson, based on South Carolina, in that mix as well).

But what might Iona, LaSalle, or Marist do? Since Marist in the past has talked about moving to the Patriot League, it is very interesting to analyze what could happen here.

LaSalle: Options Galore
Of the three, LaSalle has the most options since they are a member of the Atlantic 10 in all sports except football. They would be an easy plug-in to any conference. The only catch is that their recent history has involved deep cost-containment for football, including playing up to 3 sub-Division I opponents a year. Are they even willing to move to a PFL or new Atlantic Sun conference and the travel costs it would involve? Would they be willing to spend money on grants (the Patriot League's form of aid) or partial scholarships (the Northeast Conference, or NEC's form of aid)?

LaSalle also shows the dilemna of the new realities for non-scholarship football. Do you spend the money on scholarships (NEC) or grants (Patriot), and play locally? Or do you spend no money on scholarships and instead make two or three plane trips a year (PFL/Atlantic Sun)?

Prediction: They convince St. Bonaventure to restore non-scholarship football, giving them a A-10 travel partner in a new PFL/Atlantic Sun league.

Iona: The Lone MAAC Holdout
What does Iona do? They've seen every other all-sports member (save Marist) abandon their football program due to costs of operation. Their biggest "rival" Duquesne has jumped to the NEC. They've been a willing and able team to fill out FCS schedules, not shying away from playing FCS powerhouses like New Hampshire. And they seem through official statements to be committed to football.

What is their feeling on being in the MAAC conference? In men's basketball, Iona/Manhattan is probably the Gaels' biggest rivalry. But might they want to make a go at joining the Patriot League in all sports - ideally dragging Manhatan with them? Although it seems strange to have football drive an all-sports decision for them, the Patriot League would love to have more members, and an Iona/Manhattan combination could be killer for the Patriot League.

If they like being in the MAAC in all other sports, that would seem to point to an affiliate membership. But do they tie their wagon to the fate of LaSalle and/or Marist in this new league? Nether are what one might call a local rival, and it clearly is nothing like their local rivalries in other sports in the MAAC. And does the Atlantic Sun or PFL really give them many local options? It's hard to imagine a Davidson/Iona-style rivalry.

That would leave the NEC. Yet that isn't an ideal option either - are they willing to play ball on limited scholarships, necessitating more spending on football?

Prediction: Iona stays in the MAAC, and joins Duquesne in the NEC in football starting in 2008.

Marist: Patriot In Waiting?
I'll admit it: I've speculated here and elsewhere that Marist would be interested in possibly joining the Patriot League in the future. They've scheduled four Patriot schools last year and this year; they've recently upgraded their football facilities; they actually scheduled Columbia this year as well (following the Patriot/Ivy tradition of scheduling); and (like Duquesne but unlike other MAAC schools) they have scheduled 9-10 Division I opponents a year for at least the past six years. Like Duquesne, they seem to be ready to spend a little more and join another conference.

But are they? Are they happy in the MAAC in all other sports, and are content to be an affiliate only in football? Are they happy with their spending levels in football and other athletics, and wouldn't be willing to spend a penny more? Either situation could diminish their value in Patriot League eyes. To me it's always not been an issue about whether Marist is interested; it's whether the Patriot League is interested in accepting them into the league.

Might non-scholarship make more sense for them? The same issues are there if they go that route: no real regional rivals, dependency on two affiliate programs, more money on travel. But it could still be more of a cost-containment move than the Patriot League, where they could spend $2 million or more per year on grants.

Where do they go from here?

Prediction: The Red Foxes join the Patriot League in all sports, and probably drag another MAAC school with them to make ten basketball schools.

One thing is for sure: it's going to be a damned interesting few months on this front.


Anonymous said…
Chuck, you need to step your game up. John Reese is listed as the number three center on and you haven't mentioned anything about it at all. enough with this other nonsense and start talking about the players and the upcoming season.

heres the link
Anonymous said…
Please spend your time more profitably. The schools you mention are all of an inferior academic profile,and have poor facilities [ Marist's new stadium swells seating to 2500. Iona's are non-existent.]and have sub-par programs. Georgetown and Fordham at least have academic and other sport recognition. As a former D-1A football official who worked games at these schools while advancing , I can attest they are not what you want to improve the league. A VMI or Davidson ,better yet William & Mary and Richmond are more in keeping. Limited scholarships are the only true answer. LU '59
Anonymous said…
Chuck, here's an even more interesting question: Will Marist step up to scholarship football when the rest of the PL does? It's hard not to agree with those who say the only way for the PL to survive is to go scholarship. All of the moves each PL team is making to improve their programs almost certainly points to scholarships in the near future. Forget academics, can Marist compete in the PL with the current structure? I doubt it. What happens when we go schollie?
Anonymous said…
If you add marist, that's four schools that might balk at full schollies (holy cross, georgetown, marist, bucknell). Then what?
Anonymous said…
La Salle is two words.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
LU '59: I hope you didn't officiate with the same blindness as you comment. You note Marist as having inferior academics and offer up VMI? Be serious. Beyond the strictly academic question, the MAAC has become a stagnant conference with football in the death throws. Marist would make a great addition to the Patriot League and benefits would be realized by both the school and the league. It might take them a few years of getting beat up before they could be a contender in Patriot League Football, but in other sports they’re as good if not better than many of their potential Patriot League opponents. Academically their reputation is solid (certainly top among the MAAC schools) and getting better. I'm not an alum of the place (actually Lafayette), but I've watched them progress through the years with admiration. They willingly play better schools without sacrificing integrity in terms of academics.

Changing the purity of Patriot League football would be a mistake. The Ivy /Patriot formula stresses something more important than the business aspect of sports. Marist recognizes that formula and hopefully LU and Patriot members will as well.
LU'59 said…
Dear Lafayette Alumn. You show your ignorance in typical fashion.
Have you ever been to Marist? Have you seen their tield and arena? Do you know what the combined SAT average is?{1170. Lehigh 1342 Lafayette 1285]. School ranking? [Marist-#15 Northern Masters Colleges; Georgetown #23{most Comp.} National Universities, Lehigh #33 Most Comp.;Colgate #11{Most Comp} Liberal Arts Colleges, Bucknell #29 {most Comp}, Lafayette #30 {More Comp}, College of the Holy Cross #33.
By the way I officiated for 35 years and did officiate at Marist as well as Penn State, Pitt, West Virgina, South Carolina, Michigan,Boston College, Rutgers, Texas A&M.... What are your qualifications? Where is your research? I notice you did not mention Richmond, Davidson, or William & Mary.
Anonymous said…
Yes, I have been to both the MCann Center for basketball and Leonidoff field for football & lacrosse (although I hear it is being upgraded) both as a fan and as a production assistant for ESPN in the mid 90's. I also watched the Marist men’s and women’s basketball teams in post season play (the latter knocking off Ohio State & Middle Tenn. before falling to Tenn.). And no, I did not mention Richmond, Davidson, or William & Mary. All great choices. My point is that - should the Patriot stay need based - it would be unfortunate to overlook a school that is good and getting better academically and seems willing to spend more on their athletic programs and is geographically a good fit.

Besides, pulling stats off US News & World Report's guide to colleges is hardly research. Many of their rating criteria are flawed. You failed to mention that Fordham falls 70th in the US News poll. Marist’s rating of 15 as a Northern master’s college as opposed to a national university merely distinguishes them from the others you mentioned in that they do not offer a PhD. By the way, VMI is 86th in liberal arts colleges. Not to belittle your qualifications, but things have changed since the leather helmet days.

Not that I'm immune to your reasoning; should the PL go scholarship, a school like Marist would need to be committed to go that route. If not then certainly a Richmond, Davidson, William & Mary, or even a VMI might make a much better choice. This leopard can change his spots.
Anonymous said…
As much as I hate to agree with a Lafayette alum, this one makes a point. The Marist of 15 years ago is far different than the one today. Patriot teams play them in non-conference matchups in several sports and they should be taken seriously. They have 4 PL teams and an Ivy on this years schedule. I'm interested to see how they do. As for me, I'm focusing my energy on the Hawks. LU '01
Anonymous said…
You can't be serious. Adding a MAAC team to the league will only make it weaker. A Marist or Iona can't compete with Lehigh.
Anonymous said…
We are talking football not bb. If we talk bb outside of Bucknell and Holy Cross the entire Patriot League is bottom D-1.Navy is only true t5op level D-1 but is not a League member for football. Patriot League teams must be construed by individual sports eg. American in Field Hockey Lehigh a non=member for wrestling. Do you really think that of the league members [Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell,Holy Cross,American,Army, Navy] Marist fits in that company in reputation, tradition,academics or any similar yard stick.
Anonymous said…
Look at Cornell in the Ivy.
Anonymous said…
I hate the thought of taking refuge in tradition. We in the PL have always played second fiddle to the Ivies. It would take Marist less than a generation to attract and turn out the same caliber of students as any PL school. Bringing them in would give them that advantage. Time to take the yardstick out of our ass.

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