UPDATE: The Patriot League has released statements from the presidents of all of its football schools, including DeGioia’s:
“Georgetown offers 29 varsity sports and is committed to Division I football as part of its broadbased approach to intercollegiate athletics. Since 2001, Georgetown has been committed to competing in the sport of football as an associate member of the Patriot League. This has allowed the University to compete with institutions that shared the same academic values and need-based financial aid philosophy.
“Georgetown will continue its membership in the Patriot League in the sport of football and explore all of its options, including our ability to compete as a need-based aid program. We remain committed to our goal of providing our student athletes with an unparalleled academic experience and an athletically competitive football program.”
ORIGINAL POST: Today, the Patriot League announced that it will allow its member schools to begin to offer football scholarships for the first time. The conference already allows its schools to offer scholarships in all other sports.
The change in policy resolves the quandary created by Fordham’s decision to offer football scholarships, beginning with the class that enrolled in 2010. As a result, Fordham has been ineligible for the league championship game for the past two seasons and none of its games against conference opponents counted toward league standings.
According to a statement from the league’s Council of Presidents,
Starting with the class entering school in the fall of 2013, each school will be permitted to award no more than the equivalent of 15 athletic financial aid awards each year to incoming football student-athletes, including transfer student-athletes. The total amount of all countable financial aid awarded to all football student-athletes may not exceed 60 equivalencies in any year.
Georgetown University is one of the league’s seven football-playing members, but it has not supported moving to scholarships. ”I am not supportive of moving to a scholarship program. I don’t believe that fits the ethos and the culture of Georgetown,” University President John J. DeGioia said in August. DeGioia’s full statement on scholarships is available below.
This fundamental shift in the nature of the Patriot League comes after Georgetown football’s first winning season since 1999. In November, head coach Kevin Kelly said, “No one will ever forget this football team. They might not realize it today, but someday they will understand it. We have to celebrate this season.”
On the heels of major uncertainty in the Big East Conference because of the imminent departures of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia from the conference, Georgetown now faces the difficult challenge of maintaining the competitiveness of its recently-improved football program. Georgetown’s football program is already the least-funded program in the Patriot League. Its budget is roughly $1.6 million, compared to well over $3 million for every other Patriot League team, according to Bruce Simmons (COL ’69), the president of the Gridiron Club, a booster organization for Georgetown football.
Georgetown is not obliged to offer football scholarships to remain in the league. Georgetown Athletics will be issuing a statement on the policy change soon.
On August 31, the Voice asked President DeGioia about the issue of football scholarships. DeGioia said:
The Patriot League has worked for us in terms of providing a very good context for our football program. It’s been very competitive and it’s required the highest level of competition that we have ever played since the 1950s, and I’m very proud of the way our young men have represented us on our football field. I am not supportive of moving to a scholarship program. I don’t believe that fits the ethos and the culture of Georgetown, and I believe the way that the Patriot League is conducted is exactly the right place for us to be, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be the best place for us to be, but I’m not supportive of moving to a scholarship program and I’m not supportive that Georgetown would follow the move that Fordham did and go to 63 scholarships. It’s just very expensive and I don’t think it’s commensurate in who we are and in our aspirations for our athletic program.