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Wildcats Whomp Patriot League Champion

(Photo Credit: Laurence Kesterson/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Officially, the Patriot League football season doesn't end the week before Thanksgiving. That's because the Patriot League champion participates in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs every year.

This weekend, however, it sure felt like it ended seven days earlier.

Patriot League champs Colgate got throttled 55-28 in a game that wasn't even as competitive as this final score indicated.

The FCS playoffs for the Patriot League have traditionally resulted in some thrilling games in the past. Think of Lehigh's 2004 heartbreaker to eventual national champion James Madison in a 14-13 dogfight. Or Fordham matching UMass shot for shot last year in a 49-35 shootout. Or "that school in Easton" giving Delaware all they could handle in 2004 before falling 28-14 - or scaring the pants off of Appalachian State the following year after falling 34-23.

This year? Not so much. Villanova junior WR Matt Sczur returned the opening kickoff 91 yards to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead and never looked back in their romp over the Raiders.

Here's an indicator of how bad things were in this game: the Wildcats scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters, and scored touchdowns on seven of their first eight possessions. Colgate's vaulted running game - with both senior RB Jordan Scott and freshman RB Nate Eachus in the backfield - to 92 yards in three quarters before pulling the starters and allowing the Raiders to pile up 113 yards in garbage time. Wildcat junior QB Chris Whitney only attempted seven passes - seven! - since Villanova's "O" line was able to pulverize the Colgate "D" line to the tune of 386 rushing yards. Time of possession? Villanova: 36 minutes, Colgate: 24.

Villanova coach Andy Talley, not known for enjoying losses to Patriot League schools, appears to have calculated that his "O" and "D" lines were bigger, better, and stronger than Colgate's. That's why they passed the ball 15 fewer times than their average on Saturday.

Villanova certainly is a national-championship caliber team - and they may prove that over the coming weeks. But simply put, the way the Wilcdat offensive line made Colgate's look like a high school team has to make any Patriot League fan take pause.

I mean, I thought Colgate would put up a better showing than that. I always root for the Patriot League champion in the playoffs - yes, even when it's "that school in Easton" - but if there was ever a painful demonstration as to the differential between the CAA and the Patriot League, this is it. You almost want to send copies of the game to the Patriot League presidents just to show them what we're up against now.

And even before going to Philly, Raider coach Dick Biddle appeared to agree:

"They're probably the best team we've played," Biddle had said even before leaving for Philly. "Villanova lost two games, but one of those was to West Virginia, and they scored 20-something points against them and frustrated them with the good kids they have. They've got a couple of NFL types. I'm not saying they're going to play, but they'll get a shot. And that makes it difficult for us.

"But it's always a challenge once we get in the playoffs because we're a non-scholarship school and almost everybody else has scholarships. Some of our kids have to write 20-page papers after practice and they're not getting any financial aid. They're playing here because they love football, simple as that. That's how it is around here."

I'm not sure coach Biddle wanted his words to be seen as a shout for allowing the Patriot League to have athletic scholarships, but after the drubbing against Villanova it sure can be interpreted that way.

While I've also tried to make my voice heard on scholarships as well (from my op-ed piece in the Morning Call), the loss to Villanova begs for even more perspective.

In recent years, Villanova and Richmond were often cited as expansion candidates for the Patriot League. Both are private schools offering football scholarships; both have strict academic standards they are upholding; and both are currently among the Top 8 football teams in the country. (Conceivably, they could play each other in the championship game.)

At one time Richmond and Villanova were teams struggling to remain in the CAA, and were thought to be not competitive enough with the likes of Delaware and James Madison - so much so, in fact, that there was talk about one or both going to the Patriot League.

Hard to believe now, isn't it?

Richmond and Villanova are clearly not football factories, short-shrifting academics for powerhouse football teams. (Ever been to Villanova stadium?)

Villanova even had the opportunity at one time to jump to the Big East in football - and declined (though it was a split decision). Talley is a coach that is known for graduating athletes, and while Spider head coach Mike London is only in his first year, Richmond is known primarily for academics too, not athletics. Both Villanova and Richmond are tops year in and year out in the NCAA's academic progress rate and graduation rate lists. (Villanova's football team got singled out for their outstanding APR numbers in football last year, and Richmond's at 971 wasn't exactly far off, either.)

Anyone who is against football scholarships in any form for the Patriot League - those that are saying that scholarships are fine for all other sports, but ought not to be used in football since football is what's going to be the tipping point to make Patriot League schools renegade outfits - ought to have to have Richmond and Villanova brought up constantly as a counterargument. If scholarships are so bad, then how come Villanova and Richmond are top schools and yet somehow can field a championship-caliber team?

It's now official: the Patriot League presidents' dithering over football scholarships has officially cost us Villanova and Richmond for football. I can't envision any scenario where 'Nova or Richmond leave the CAA to join the Patriot League, even with scholarships. The policy of not changing things for football because it "ain't broke" has now officially, in my opinion, bit the league in the ass.

Now, the Patriot League has to think about how their teams can be like Villanova and Richmond. Both schools have gone from needing a rescue by the Patriot League to becoming the models upon which the Patriot League will need to look up to in order to be able to be on the same playing field.

'Nova and Richmond are playing meaningful football games in December. And Colgate and the rest of the Patriot League wonder how we could be as good as they are. I don't think that what anyone wanted, but that's where we are.


Anonymous said…
If the alumni do not bring pressure on the Trustees and Administration and support Sterrett in his quest for more emphasis on Athletics, you will only see a further slide.
Anonymous said…
"It's now official: the Patriot League presidents' dithering over football scholarships has officially cost us Villanova and Richmond for football. "

Today, Richmond. Tomorrow, Fordham?
Anonymous said…
Colgate was the fourth best team in the league. Would have loved to see Holy Cross and Randolph pick apart Nova's secondary. Colgate is horrendous. They won games with smoke and mirrors.
Anonymous said…
Colgate won the PL because no PL opponent could stop their formidable running game. Lehigh would take that kind of smoke and mirrors anyday. Yep, HC and Randolph could have put up a couple more scores on Nova..followed by Nova plowing right through the porous HC rushing defense for 500+ rushing yards. How does Nova 65 HC 35 sound? Much better right?
Doug H said…
I have a problem in this economic climate seeing a change for the better... The current model limits the expense and frankly many of the kids get healthy scholarships anyway.... I can't see LU funding full athletic scholarships even if they could... It would cost 3MM/year or so just for that and that is lots more than they could ever make back... The only way to do it is with endowment which is how other small private schools like Wofford and Furman do it.... I think if Lehigh had started it years ago like those schools did, it wouldn't be an issue... But today, not enough money around for that purpose.. We need our own T. Boone to fund it...
Anonymous said…
Great article. Thank you.
BTW- the comment about "Colgate was the fourth best team" comes from Pard4Life not a Lehigh fan. As far as I am concerned he is Loser4Life. He totally misjudged that juggernaut in Easton and still does. It was obvious to me the Lehigh would win your final game. Make a habit of it, please.
gate88 said…
The AD's have said, and I agree, that they only want full members. Richmond and Villanova are not going to join for all sports. Period.

I love the league expansion talk -- in some ways it's more interesting than the season -- but these fantasies of teams moving down to join the league are just a waste of time
ngineer said…
I think that still leaves Richmond in the mix IF the PL went to scholarships. However, there are others that could still fill the bill if scholarships are not forthcoming: VMI or Johns Hopkins moving up, or someone changing conferences (Davidson or Dayton?). You're right, though; it does keep us talking about something.(;-)
The Future said…
I have already posted this on a Colgate board in answer to the question, "Why would scholarships mean better student athletes?"

Colgate estimates the cost of attending at $51,090.
Need-based financial aid can offset a lot (not all) of that cost if a recruit's family doesn't make a lot of money.
For a low-income family, Colgate is on more equal footing when it comes to recruiting. If your parents make $45,000 a year, it wouldn't cost much to go to Colgate so you might choose Colgate over Stony Brook (and a free ride). But, would you choose Colgate over Penn, Harvard or Yale-- which offer free tuition to families making less than $50k (Penn), $60K (Harvard) or $45K (Yale)? No.
So, Colgate loses a few choice recruits among low-income families--by "choice" I mean very good athletes with great grades. But, where Colgate really loses out is with kids whose parents have higher paying jobs. Would a good student from a family making $250,000 a year choose to pay $250,000 to go to Colgate or pay $0 and go to Richmond or William and Mary or Villanova? If I'm a smart kid and a good football player, I save my family the $250,000 and go to one of those schools every time. Or, if my family says, "Look, we are willing to pay to send you to the best school possible" (as you hope most families would or could) the kid has probably also gotten into an Ivy League school and that's where he ends up. With scholarships, Colgate (with better football and a shot at the playoffs) could land some of the kids who would go to Ivy League schools and would get many of the kids we might lose to William and Mary or Richmond. Bottom line: with 63 scholarships, Colgate would have 63 chances a year to recruit better students to play football. With Title 9 you would have to match those scholarships (for women), which means that 126 better students as athletes. That's 9% of the school's enrollment. This in turn makes Colgate more selective. The school's national ranking rises. People like seeing Colgate rise in national rankings. It makes them proud of their school. People would love to see Colgate knock off Syracuse or Army in football (teams that would start playing Colgate because with scholarships Colgate would count towards them being bowl eligible). It would make them proud. Proud people donate more. Donations add to the endowment. A higher endowment helps Colgate in the national rankings. Which makes people proud. Proud people donate more. Etc.

Giving scholarships to football players=better students=better Colgate. The same rational applies to every school in the Patriot League.
Anonymous said…
No that comment on Colgate being 4th best was not from me, Mr. the last idiot... like I said, get a life.

Is the only way for the Patriot to get Nova and Richmond, despite extreme odds against, in the next year or two? Once the CAA expands to include Old Dominion, will there be a disintegration of the league? It is already too big.. although it is past the point, if the NEC did not go scholarship, Albany would want to join too.


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