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SVC football: a failed experiment

Zach Noble Editor-in-Chief

First, a disclaimer: The opinions contained in this editorial are mine. I believe that many of my fellow students share these opinions, but given the sensitive subject matter and the fact that football players account for a significant portion of the student body (and an even more significant portion of the student body’s combined mass, rim shot), I take full and sole responsibility for my words. This editorial does not present the Review’s official position regarding SVC football. Second, an opinion: The SVC football team is bad for our school. Our football program attracts droves of under-qualified, under-prepared freshmen who play for a season and wreak drunken havoc on this campus before failing out. Bearcat football makes SVC worse in almost every way, and I would like to see the program ended. Third, a few facts, anecdotes and caveats: I’m biased because football players ruined my first semester at SVC. My pod was dominated by a quartet of large, brutish football players. These individuals would get drunk, plop down in the middle of the pod, and loudly threaten passers-by with physical violence. One of the football players carried a knife and wasn’t afraid to wave it around menacingly. I was scared. Long story short, the football players in question had all left SVC by the spring semester, and my freshman year got better. The knife-waver was the first to go, expelled after multiple run-ins with Residence Life, and the other three were academically dismissed because they rarely attended classes. I thought it would be interesting to examine the retention rates for SVC football players. I had to compile my own data, using the publically available online SVC football roster, because the college administration declined to provide me with data. SVC publishes a “Student Right to Know” report (on the SVC Portal) that breaks down graduation rates for different populations of student-athletes, but the the latest available report covers the 2005-06 student cohorts. Football graduation rates are not available, because SVC’s current football program started in 2007. Let’s look at the Class of 2014: • The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate between fall 2010 and fall 2011 was 84.2 percent, according to the SVC 2011-2012 Fact Book. • In the fall of 2010, 39 freshmen were listed on the SVC football roster. In the fall of 2011, only 22 of those players were still playing football. That’s a retention rate of 56.4 percent. • For the Class of 2014, football players were more than twice as likely to drop out of school as the average student. My class has lost its share of football players too. • In the fall of 2009, 49 freshmen were listed on the SVC football roster. This fall, only 15 of those players were listed on the roster as seniors. • That’s right, only one-third of the football players in my class stayed with it all four years. I also wanted to compare the GPA’s of athletes on different sports teams, but according to Sue Hozak, SVC’s Assistant Athletic Director, SVC does not calculate team GPA’s. I’ll leave the football team’s GPA to the reader’s imagination. Now, my numbers are skewed a little bit because not every football player who left the team left SVC. Three of my personal friends are former players who quit the team for various reasons but still attend SVC. I spoke with many Bearcats, both current players and students who left the team, as I constructed this editorial. Many players were critical of the football program, but no one wanted to go on record with their criticisms, fearing social repercussions and potential backlash from coaches. One former player was willing to be quoted on the condition of anonymity. “As a former member of the Bearcat football ‘family,’ I look back and see a lot of the benefits, the togetherness, and the fun,” said the former player. “However, this was relatively short-lived. The saying I kept hearing was ‘once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat,’ and I have to strongly disagree with that statement.” The player recounted how a program that valued short-lived talent over hard work and academics destroyed his love for football. “I love the game,” said the former player, “but as I was replaced by men, boys rather, who are no longer enrolled at SVC, guys who could not keep a C average as teachers spoon-fed them material through entry-level classes after an ‘opportunity’ head-start, my nostalgic high-school tears were dried up with spite and hatred.” While SVC does not award athletic scholarships, many students with whom I spoke suggested that “leadership grants” are liberally dispensed in lieu of athletic scholarships. The football team drains SVC’s resources and provides little value in return for the school’s investment; if leadership grants are being awarded as surrogate athletic scholarships, so much the worse. SVC’s financial aid ought to be used to attract students who can lead in the classroom, not just on the football field. I don’t mean to condemn every single SVC football player. I’ve met many great guys who played football here, and some of my most reliable Residence Life coworkers are current or former football players. Many football players are men of intelligence and character. I also don’t mean to blame the players for every problem. Many current and former players expressed dissatisfaction with SVC’s coaching staff and blamed the coaches for many of the football team’s failings. I am unqualified to assess the validity of SVC’s hiring decisions, so I invite the administration and student body to investigate and address these possible concerns. On the whole, the SVC football program hurts our school. By recruiting muscle en masse, the football program brings many unprepared freshmen to SVC, and these freshmen make life worse for those of us who are in school for the right reasons: to learn and earn a degree. The football team is a waste of time and money. I hope this editorial sparks discussions, rather than fistfights, because I would likely lose the latter. If my numbers are wrong, correct me. If my impression of football players is misinformed, correct me. I close with a request: End the SVC football experiment.

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