Skip to main content

Media Day 2012: "A Significant Year for the League"

Patriot League executive director Carolyn Schlie Femovich has, by any measure, has presided over an extraordinary 2011-2012 athletic year.

That football scholarships were not the only interesting subject on Patriot League Media Day is a testament to the number of history-making moves that has taken place in the span of the 2011-2012 football offseason, and it's something that Femovich certainly understands well.

"It's been a very significant year for the league, and I give the presidents and athletic directors a lot of credit for that," she said. "The scholarship decision was a significant step for us, the admission of Boston Univeristy will be a strong member for us, and the expanded TV package - I think it's all an indication that what we're doing has value and merit: other people want to join us, we put a product on the field that is successful, and a product that people can be proud of. It's a good place to be."

To the executive director of the Patriot League, the historic decision on football scholarships is what opened the door for plenty of groundbreaking moves in the league this year.

It's definitely a flavor of scholarships, though, that reflects the way the Patriot League does business.

"I think scholarships opens up a lot more doors and avenues for both the talented football player, but also for the very bright academic student, and that's a win-win," she said.  "And we don't expect any decline in our academic performance with this decision, we actually expect increased performance.  It all comes down to how it's managed."

She also mentioned the flexibility each school will have in offering scholarships as well.

"First I'd like to say at the outset that it's permissive aid," she said, "so every institution will decide how they want to award their athletic aid: they can continue with need-limited aid, with a combination of scholarships should they choose.  Others may just decide to go to scholarships.  That's the insititutional perogative to decide how they want to split it up."

Femovich explained that each school might choose to do things differently.

"For example, one school might decide to spend money from academic awards that they might qualify for themsleves, they might continue to give money on a need-limited basis, or they could offer scholarship money, or some combination," she said.  "At another school, they could decide to take all the money they've been spending, put it in a pot, and they will allocate up to 15 each year, and when it's gone, it's gone."

She verified with me that football squad sizes, as a natural progression of  the move to scholarships and increased retention, would be reduced over time.

In addition to the flexibility for each school, there's an element to football scholarships that is not present in other leagues.

"There will be some reporting to the league to go along with scholarships, because the upper limit is 60," she said.  "And it's 60 of all forms of aid - need-based, scholarship, or academic awards."

It's a significant difference from many other FCS conferences. 

Delaware's president doesn't have to disclose to James Madison's president the names and academic standards of their football players receiving scholarship money. 

But as a part of the Patriot League, whose presidents, like the Ivy League, share all manner of academic and athletic information through the league office, it's a normal way of doing business.

It's a way of doing business that Boston University, the newest member of the League, is also learning about up close and personal.

They will begin participating in our meetings, our coaches' groups, plus administrative groups, so that they feeling like they are a part of our family.  They don't become an official member with voting rights or competitive opportunities until 2013.

Part of it is orientation to the Patriot League.  We've had lots of conversations and conference calls with their staff, and we're taking a delegation up to Boston to spend a day and a half with them, to meet their coaches, and spend time with their administrators to help them understand how we do business, how we do things administratively around all sports, and really explains our ethos and thinking on academics and athletics, and why we do things the way we do. 

They understand that when they join the Patriot League, some things are going to be different.  For example, when we talk about missed class time, we're very serious about that.  We play weekend games wherever we can because we want to make sure our kids stay in class.   For them, its a part of them learning about how we do business, and it's our responsibility to help them with that transition. 

Interestingly, she told me that the decision on football scholarships at least partially paved the way toward Boston University joining the league, though at first it might seem counter-intuitive since the Terriers unceremoniously dumped their scholarship football program in 1997, and have no plans to start it up again.

But with the scholarship decision out of the way, she said, it paved the way for the conversations to take place between Boston University's president, Robert A. Brown, and the presidents and memberships of the League.

Though it wasn't spelled out explicitly by Ms. Femovich, something that had to be attractive to Boston University was the Patriot League's TV deal, which includes a host of televised sports in men's and women's basketball, lacrosse, and football.

She did mention how the football part of the deal had been expanded, however.

"The deal with CBS Sports Network has given us an opportunity to further expose our football programs.  We've had a partnership and package for basketball," she said.  "but now this has been expanded to include football and lacrosse with several more nationally televised games.  And over time, this can continue to grow."

The league got an unexpected game when CBS Sports Network elected to pick up the Bucknell/Harvard game this season after the original broadcast schedule was announced.

"We were happy that Harvard was interested in a CBS Sports Network broadcast of their game at Bucknell," she siad.  "Last year, they televised a game where Cornell played there, and that's a good thing.  We help each other."

Might that open up the door to more football games to be broadcast?

I think it's possible, but a lot depends upon windows.  We don't necessarily want to play on a Thursday night.  If we decide to play on Thursday, we have a lot of opportunities.  But with their partnership with Army and Navy, all of their home games are televised.  So if Army is playing at home at noon, and Navy is playing at home at 3:30, there's no window for one of our games.

There are special occasions, for example, Holy Cross has played some games on a Friday night, or over Labor Day weekend, so there's an opportunity to do that, but we're very judicious about playing weekend games.  You're not going to see Patriot League football on Tuesday night games any time soon.


What's clear from my conversation with Ms. Femovich is that, yes, it's a significant year for the league, but at the same time, in many ways, the Patriot League has seen this as a critical validation that their measured approach, and their model of academic standards and institutional control, is a positive way forward.

The momentous football scholarship decision came about after a long period of discussion and debate. 

Whether Boston University approached the Patriot League first or not, the Terriers clearly approved of their model of academics and athletics.

And the slow-burning TV deal, after a modest beginning, is starting to really pay dividends as CBS Sports Network starts to really make a serious push into cable households all over the nation.

While some conferences flash bright and fade fast, the Patriot League's model is maintaining a slow burn. 

And in this uncertain time of collegiate realignment, it's a pretty great place to be.


Unknown said…
60 is max for ALL forms of aid? Your quote of Femovich is clear. Certainly will lead to significantly smaller squads. Only non recruited wakons wont count towards that mumber?

Popular posts from this blog

Nick Shafnisky Is Pushing Hard to Get To Play at the Next Level in Football

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing."
Those are the words of QB Nick Shafnisky, told to The Whitehall-Coplay Press all the way back in 2013, about his preparation as a high school athlete.
And they seem to summarize the Whitehall, PA native perfectly, then as now.
Dubbed the "Male Athlete of the Year" by that publication, the article goes on about Shaf's many exploits at Whitehall high school - leading the Zephyr football team to a co-Lehigh Valley Conference title, becoming the first player ever in that conference to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earning the league's co-MVP award as well.
He also was a member of the Zephyrs playoff basketball team, and for good measure also helped set a record for the 4x100 relay team as well.
At Whitehall, and at Lehigh, coaches pushed him, but it was his own hard work that helped make him the best athlete he could be.
This weekend, Shaf, like every eligible college football player, will be …

#TheRivalry Flashback: November 21st, 1987: Lehigh 17, Lafayette 10

Since becoming an undergrad at Lehigh back in the late 1980s, I first heard about the historic nature of the football team and "The Rivalry" through the stories that fellow students would share.

I did not attend the final meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette at Taylor Stadium, which was the final time a football game would be played there.

Those that did attend said that was that it was cold.

"I remember it being one of the coldest games ever," Mark Redmann recollected, "with strong Northwesterly winds and the temperature hovering around 20.  By the end of the game, the stands were half empty because most of the fans just couldn't take the cold.

"Fortunately, several of my fraternity brothers snuck in flasks to help fend off the chill."

Dominick Bragalone Goes Into Monster Mode As Lehigh Is One Win Away From Title

It has been a most unusual season for Lehigh.

Starting the year off at 0-5 and getting swept in their out-of-conference schedule, the Mountain Hawks were in danger of having their season go off the rails.

But two things have come together over the last five football games that have put Lehigh on the brink of back-to-back championships.

The first is the late blooming of the Lehigh defense, which kept battling every week since the low point of the September 30th loss to Wagner to do the job in four of their five Patriot League conference games. 

The second is the development of junior RB Dominick Bragalone into a bellcow running back, a back who has to be in the conversation for Patriot League offensive player of the year.

In five Patriot League games, Bragalone has run for 863 yards in 5 games, rushing for 11 touchdowns and adding two more receiving touchdowns as well. 

The South Williamsport, PA native certainly wasn't unknown before this week - after all, as a freshman and a sop…