RICHMOND, Ind. -- Interim President Avis Stewart announced today that Earlham College will suspend its football program for the 2019 season and has authorized a review of the program.
Stewart says that the College's plan is for the program to return in 2020 as long as three conditions are met: 1) determine the appropriate funding levels and resources to support football outside of the College's current operating budget, 2) hire a highly qualified head coach for the 2020 football season, and 3) recruit an appropriate number of football student-athletes to field a competitive team.
"These three conditions must be met before we re-establish our program," Stewart says. "Our alumni will be instrumental in helping us attain these goals. A quality football program with the appropriate numbers has the potential to enhance the student experience, increase enrollment, and impact the College's budget in a positive way."
The Football Review Committee (FRC), appointed by Stewart, is comprised of alumni, faculty, student-athletes, and current and former Division III football coaches and athletic directors. The committee will take into account the health and safety of student-athletes, the financial realities of fielding a football team, and Earlham's past difficulties with recruiting and success on the field. The suspension of the program will begin immediately.
The FRC will be charged with providing an overview of what is required to support a viable intercollegiate football program at the College. The committee will focus on a number of areas including the optimal roster size required to provide a competitive experience at the NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletics level, the College's ability to recruit and retain football student-athletes, the impact football has on diversity of the College's student body, its enrollment and net tuition, and the programmatic and staffing costs necessary to adequately sponsor football at the College.
"Our board of trustees has been looking at football with concern for several years, and we agree that it is time to consider whether or not success on the football field is a goal we should pursue," Stewart says. "This decision was not made easily or lightly, but I am convinced that it is the right one at this point in the history of the College."
In the fall of 2015, a strategic plan for football was developed and reviewed by the College's senior administration, athletics administration, and the Board of Trustees. The plan called for an analysis of the football program and set benchmarks for the program to attain within a three-year time period. The program did not make progress toward these goals.
"It is no secret that Earlham has struggled to recruit enough student-athletes and that the program has suffered as a result," Stewart said. "Small rosters like ours pose significant health and safety concerns for students, and they also raise financial concerns, since football is a relatively expensive sport."
The FRC will begin its work in January 2019 and will be chaired by Vince Punzo, a professor of psychology and one of Earlham's faculty athletic representatives. Other members include:
- Ellie Bewley '69, Board of Trustees/Chair of the Board College Community Life Committee, former college athletics director
- Ian Henry '01, Board of Trustees/Chair of the Board Diversity Ad Hoc Committee, former football student-athlete
- Julie Kline, Earlham College, Senior Director of Athletics
- Lindsey McGee, Faculty Athletic Representative and Assistant Professor of Biology
- Chris Ragsdale, Former Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner (10 years) and long-time NCAA DIII Director of Athletics and Coach.
- Don Morel, Current Head Coach at Wabash College with more than 20 years of coaching experience at different levels
- Steve Specht '90, former football student-athlete and Head Football Coach at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati where he has won state championships and named NFL High School Coach of the Year
- Jerry Stauffer '62, former football student-athlete, former Head Football Coach at Indianapolis Warren Central High School, where he won two state championships
- Windel Stracener '86, Earlham Athletics Physician and former student-athlete, and
- Two current student-athlete leaders at Earlham College
During the FRC's work, Earlham will assist with transfer requests from student-athletes who choose to continue their educations elsewhere. Student-athletes who were primarily recruited to play football, remain at Earlham, and choose not to participate in NCAA intercollegiate athletics will have the opportunity to participate in special experiential learning opportunities in the local community.
"We recognize that this decision will come as a disappointment to members of the football team, and we are committed to helping those students get the most out of their Earlham experience," Stewart said.
ABOUT EARLHAM COLLEGE: Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. We rank 7th nationally for Best Classroom Experience, according to The Princeton Review.