EDITORIAL: Football, it starts within
With its transition into non-scholarship football, this would be a great opportunity for Presbyterian College to recruit and play more football players from Laurens County.
PC will maintain a NCAA Division I football program in 2021, when it joins the Pioneer Football Conference. But as of right now, the college is not offering any scholarships for football.
Players on the gridiron will have to pay their own way, and sacrifice much of their “down time” to practice and attend meetings just as other Division I student-athletes are required to do. Football players at PC will be eligible for academic scholarships.
We are confident very few Clinton High School, Laurens District High School and Laurens Academy students can afford to pay full price at Presbyterian College.
Even at “the discount rate,” it is a very high bar for any family, financially. However, we are also confident many of our CHS, LDHS and LA graduates can, and will, qualify for academic scholarships. The 2017 CHS graduating class qualified for more than $7.3 million in scholarships. College football recruiters had to travel no further than The Ridge in Laurens, for the Touchdown Club's annual meeting and all-county team to find good players - that's 6 miles, one way, from Clinton.
We want PC to recruit local players in other sports, too. As a DI school, PC must have a national recruiting program. But with football being scaled back, it makes sense that its national recruiting should be scaled back. Looking in “our own backyard” for players would help in another way, too. People would come to see them play.
If all the alumni who have expressed disappointment with the way PC handled its Pioneer Football League transition stop coming to games, attendance at Bailey Memorial Stadium is going to be way down.
Donations to the Scotsman Club and the Victory Fund also might take a hit. What better way to “fill the stadium” than to have names on the roster that people recognize. Our “hometown heroes” playing for our “hometown team,” that would draw interest. And, not only from fans - PC Athletics Information could sell us and others on locally oriented feature stories, as well.
It is difficult to imagine that PC trips to Wake Forest, Mississippi, Central Michigan, South Alabama, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and California have not been enough “money games” to sustain the program at a DI, scholarship level. Spending some and saving some (for football only) - it would seem the football program should have an endowment by now. It’s been 10 years for PC transitioning into DI and Big South affiliation, yet the football program appears to be a money-drainer - not a money-maker.
PC can change that. All other sports besides football will continue as scholarship, Big South programs. Football will become Davidson, a scaled down sport competing against bigger schools with no scholarships. The Pioneer Football League says these are football players who play “for the love of the game” - not “one-and-done” seeking financial benefits from the game. Maybe so, but student-athletes carry a much greater burden than “average” students - the debate over whether they "should be paid” extends well beyond Presbyterian College.
We are not saying that a football team of Laurens County graduates can be competitive, as Limestone College has done with Gaffney High graduates. What we are saying is this: in the PFL, we will be competing more directly than ever with Wofford and Furman for scholar-athletes. Maybe our vision should start with-in - before it expands with-out.
By not offering football scholarships, PC will save itself $2 million a year. It can give half a million dollars to faculty raises and half a million dollars to new programs, and repay its endowment and leverage money for new construction with the other $1 million. Doing all that will transform the campus. We just don’t want them to leave behind a football tradition of more than 100 years during the transformation, and there is no indication they want to. The best way not to let that happen is to sign and play more athletes from Laurens County.