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Breaking News: Lafayette to Vote No on Scholarships

Some breaking news - and some quick opinion - on a revelation from Lafayette's student newspaper that president Dan Weiss will vote "no" on allowing conventional scholarships to be offered in the Patriot League.

In the article, Weiss said, "increasing our commitments to athletic scholarships is not consistent with the mission and vision of our college," and that the institution is better suited using additional resources in other areas.

"I wasn't satisfied that it can be done without incremental cost and I don't think that it's appropriate at this time in the life of this college to be putting more money into football when there are other programs and needs that are more pressing," he said.

You can bet there's more. (more)

"My position is that I don't believe that this initiative is in the best interest in the long-term interest of the League," Weiss said. "And I don't support it. I think we can accomplish our goals just as effectively without it."

He also cited the importance of [strengthening] partnership with the Ivy League. The Ivy League has drastically increased their financial aid packages, according to Fordham Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin. Lafayette's Chair of the Board of Trustees, Edward Ahart '69, said the increased need-based aid in Ivy League institutions occurred for students across the board, not athletes exclusively.

Mr. Weiss is entitled to his opinion, but it is one I do not happen to share.

I am not qualified to say if the decision on football scholarships is good for Lafayette.  But what is good for the Patriot League, that's much different.  I've been following this league very closely for some time, and my opinion is very different than Mr. Weiss'.

If one of the key the long-term interests of the League is to grow the academic Patriot League sports model and to have other schools sign up for membership, it's hard to see which Northeast schools that offer football will be willing to join up without being allowed to offer the maximum number of football scholarships.

The only way current FCS-playing football-playing schools William & Mary or Richmond - or even state institutions like New Hampshire or Maine - will join a conference like the Patriot League is with football scholarships as a part of that equation. They want to play the Duke's and North Carolina's of the world, and football scholarships are the only way they can do that.  With 63 football scholarships, a win by Duke over Richmond counts for bowl eligibility, which makes them a very attractive opponent for them.

Even other possible candidates that offer fewer football scholarships, like VMI, or any members of the limited-scholarship NEC are highly unlikely to join the Patriot League without some accommodation to some scholarships in some form.

Objectively, a non-scholarship Patriot League does not have many realistic options available for expansion. Two members of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League - Marist, or Davidson - are possibilities.  But Davidson will not leave the SoCon in all sports - and are a very long haul on South Carolina for road trips.  Marist seems like literally the only possible expansion candidate in the entire Northeast that fits the parameters of the league - if they're even willing to join up with the current limited grant-in-aid model.

And any Division III school who might have an inkling that they might want to join Division I will now have to go through at least eight years of transition, stopping first at Division II and then to Division I - promising a decade or more of waiting for any of those schools to join the Patriot League as full, championship-contending members.  Johns Hopkins, RPI and MIT are great candidates, in theory for Patriot League membership - but none of those schools have shown any interest in moving to Division I, let alone go through the onerous process for expanding their athletic programs.

League expansion has always been a goal for the Patriot League. It's hard to see how that goal of expansion can be reached without football scholarships.

And that doesn't even consider the fact that Fordham will almost certainly leave the Patriot League in football if scholarships are not approved.

If they leave, Patriot League football would be in real danger of shrinking permanently - and would be one football program away from losing the autobid to the FCS playoffs and possibly folding as a football league.  Fordham has already started to offer merit-based scholarships; they will not go back as a favor to the Patriot League.  They have done an amazing amount to keep the Patriot League together this long, but they will not do that.

In face of these facts, I'd really like to see a plan from Mr. Weiss as to how the league will achieve the goal of Patriot League expansion without football scholarships, because my vision of the future of a non-scholarship Patriot League is one that at a bare minimum will need to replace a school that is a good Patriot League fit for football in Fordham.

And "strengthening partnership with the Ivy League" - is that really a goal of the Patriot League?  I think by any objective measure the Patriot League is already quite well entwined with the Ivy League.  Last year, the Patriot League and Ivy League contested seventeen inter-league games.  What's the goal, here, Dan?  An eighteenth game, increasing the average to over 2 1/2 Ivy League out-of-conference games a year?

At what point do you say that the Ivy League goal is achieved?  As Groucho Marx once said, "If I was any closer to you, I'd be in back of you."  I like the Ivy League games a lot, but we don't need to be in back of them.

(Besides, scholarships in some ways is seen as a way to simply be competitive with Harvard, Yale and Princeton's aid programs that scholarship the entire student body making less than $100,000 a year.)

Mr Weiss has his opinion on football scholarships, but he doesn't answer the bigger question - if not football scholarships, then what, praytell, is his vision for the Patriot League, aside from getting ever closer to the Ivy League?

Is that the Patriot League's only reason for existence - closeness to the Ivy League?

And if the goals are just a wee bit broader than that, exactly how does the Patriot League achieve their goals of expansion and exporting the Patriot League model effectively without them?

Weiss said he collaborated with the Board of Trustees in making his decision, but Ahart claims Weiss only advised them of his decision and did not involve the Board in the discussions.

According to Ahart, the president "formulated a position. He reviewed that position with the leadership of that Board, advised the Board of that decision."

"To the extent that there is a notion that there was a study subject to discussion, lengthily debated by the Board, that is simply not true," he said.

Ahart said he could not answer if the faculty had any say in the decision, but added that the "faculty always has input to the president."

Ahart said the Board supported Weiss's decision.

It seems almost inconceivable that with the most important, visible vote about the direction of the Patriot League in the last ten years, Lafayette board of trustees was basically involved at all in the decision, according to the paper's account.  Without a debate at the board of trustees level.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest vote in Patriot League history - the biggest since the vote that allowed scholarships in every sport except football a little more than ten years ago.

Aren't Lafayette's board members stakeholders in this? Shouldn't this be up to more discussion with the trustees, weighing pros and cons?

Instead, it looks like Mr. Weiss came up to his own conclusion, and then asked the board to rubber stamp his decision.

That's stunning, especially concerning a vote of this magnitude.

If the vote passes, Weiss said "The Board has not yet said what its actions will be as a result of the vote. The College is very supportive of the Patriot League, but what specific actions we will take in light of this vote is not clear."

"It's unlikely that we'd simply carry on as we do and have the League all become scholarships if we aren't doing them," he said.

This statement is extremely unclear.

Would it mean that Lafayette would start to sponsor scholarships in football to match the other Patriot League schools - or could it mean that Lafayette could leave the Patriot League over the issue?

His quote could be taken either way.

All he seems to say is that a vote for scholarships would mean that Lafayette would not keep with the status quo.  Whether that mean "the status quo for grants in football" or "the status quo for staying in the Patriot League" is not clear at all.

Weiss will vote "no" on scholarships - but what is he voting "yes" to?   A football-less future?  A Pioneer League future?  An independent future?  A Patriot League future where the rest of the league goes to 63 scholarships, and Lafayette just muddles through?  "Strengthening ties with the Ivy League"?

I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question.

And that's the problem.  Weiss would rather vote "no" with no clear vision for the future than vote "yes" on something that might actually be put up to internal debate.


Anonymous said…
Break up the Patriot League! I think that the schools voting YES for scholarships should remain in the league. I believe there are only two maybe three NO votes. Keep Fordham in the fold and expand with the James Madison's Richmond's William & Mary's of the world. All good schools, all attractive opponents. I think Lafayette should drop football, or move to division II. The rivalry has been wonderful but the idiot running the show over there doesn't quite seem equipped to move tho the next level. The facts are that non scholarship programs at the FCS level are a thing of the past. How about change for God's sake. get rid of the greed pit, you make enough money Lafayette! citing the Ivies as friends is fine, but even they are stretching the truth about what they are providing for football players. Let's start a new rivalry that lasts til long after we're gone.
Mark said…
Not surprised at all on this. A Lafayette alum friend told me they were a "No" around L-L. My biggest concern is they hold Lehigh hostage on the matter in order to retain The Rivalry.

Time for the other president's to start showing their hands. I heard Colgate is "No" and stated that. Someone replied that they are a "Yes". I've been told that they have applied for entry into the Ivy League. If this is true, why would they be a "Yes"?

This is definitely high-noon for the Patriot league. I hope they know what's good for them and the competitiveness of the and vote "Yes".
Anonymous said…
Scholarships sound nice but take a long range view. Who do you want to keep company with, CAA, NEC teams or Ivy league teams. The IVY league will last, and to be associated with them is a compliment, these other leagues come and go. Even with scholarships it doesn't mean talent will improve if academic standards remain the same. LU just needs to sweeten their need and academic scholarship offerings.
Anonymous said…
The other option is to look to the ivy league for expansion possibilities. If LU and Colgate were to join the Ivy, I believe that it would be a win win situation. However, one of the stipulations would have to be that the Ivies soften their stance on the playoffs. The playoff issue is as much a bone of contention among the Ivy leagues as scholarships are to the Patriot. I do agree that the rivalry has become one of Lafayette's trump cards to try and keep Lehigh in check. If LU were to join the Ivy, they could keep the rivalry, but may have to change the date to early in the season. At least it's up for discussion.
Anonymous said…
I am not surprised at Lafayette's position. I expected it.

The motion may ultimately fail by a 6-0 vote. Dr. Gast will have her arm twisted to vote against schollies just to show League solidarity.

What I can't understand is why the PL allows athletic schollies in other sports but not in football. Or is it just to make money off the NCAA tournaments? If so, one more lost school and they lose their automatic bid, as another poster mentioned above.
Anonymous said…
To much focus on the playoffs, Patriot League chances of winning the championship are slight at best. Other then Villanova all the schools are public with poor academics. is that what you want? See the big picture, Ivy,Patriot. just sweeten the package, if a player doesn't want to put up a few bucks to come to Lehigh, why would you want him. Lets not pick on Mrs. Gast because she doesn't like football. Who knows she might have tryed out for cheerleading in Jr. High and didn't make it and the other girls teased her for being a nerd. So leave her alone.!!
Anonymous said…
Reluctance by some schools to add scholarships is most likely due to Title IX. In Georgetown's case, football simply isn't worth the investment. Any argument about merit pay for athletes is pure hypocrisy.

As for posters attacking Weiss of Lafayette, lighten up children. It's only football. Great minds such as yours and his can differ about the value football brings to a campus. Football can be a valuable marketing tool for a school trying to build a national reputation. Not so much for a small liberal arts college.
Anonymous said…
Not sure why the last poster even bothers coming to the Lehigh FOOTBALL sight!
mailman said…
If a school like Lafayette put all that $$$$$$$$ into the football field in recent years,but can only half fill it on a good Saturday,Upgrade your team(by schollies) and schedule,start winning and FANS will come. The football revenue at all schools fund athletics. DAHHHHHHHHH
Anonymous said…
"To much focus on the playoffs, Patriot League chances of winning the championship are slight at best. Other then Villanova all the schools are public with poor academics. is that what you want? See the big picture, Ivy,Patriot."
What about Richmond and JMU?
Anonymous said…
JMU is a state school I believe, Richmond would be a great match for Patriot League football.
Anonymous said…
The Ivy League will NEVER expand. Period. End of story. Not an option, ever.

It is pure hypocrisy that a league that was founded, initially, as a need-based aid institution FOOTBALL conference now allows scholarships in all sports except...wait for

Check the records of the donors and see how many were college athletes...well over half I am sure.
Anonymous said…
The Ivy League will never expand. Period, end of story. Stop even dreaming of it.

And, it is total hypocrisy that a football league that was formed with a a cohesive need-based aid model for football now allows scholarships in all sports except...wait for it...FOOTBALL, its charter sport.

And who donates the most? Athletes. Look it up.
Anonymous said…
Lafayette is a joke and always has been/. Let's skip town like the Colts. Gast is a clueless buffoon as well.

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