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Patriot League to allow football scholarships

February 14, 2012
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CENTER VALLEY, Pa.—The Patriot League will begin offering football scholarships in 2013 in a move the conference hopes could help position itself for potential expansion.

The seven schools that play Patriot League football had been limited to offering aid for financial need since the conference's formation in 1986.

But league presidents said this week allowing "athletic merit aid" for football would help the stability and long-term positioning of the conference.

"The introduction of this financial aid model for football will strengthen the Patriot League's ability to compete for outstanding student-athletes while continuing to uphold the high academic standards of the League and its member institutions," league Executive Director Carolyn Schlie Femovich said Monday in a statement announcing the change.

Starting with the class beginning school in fall 2013, Patriot League schools will be allowed to award up to the equivalent of 15 football scholarships. Transfers would be eligible.

Teams would not be able to exceed 60 scholarships in any year, and would still be allowed to offer need-based financial aid.

Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Fordham and Georgetown play football in the Patriot League. Fordham had already started offering football scholarships in 2010, though the league made the school ineligible to play for the conference title and the NCAA automatic qualifier slot.

"We are very pleased that other Patriot League teams will be joining the Rams in moving toward a permissive stance regarding financial aid for football student athletes," said Fordham's president, the Rev. Joseph McShane. "We have found at Fordham that this approach has allowed our staff and coaches to recruit academically and athletically talented student-athletes in a more efficient and effective manner."

The league said it would revisit this spring whether to again allow Fordham to compete for the league title and NCAA automatic bid to the FCS tournament.

The move could also make it more appealing again for FBS teams to play Patriot League schools. In 2011, for instance, Fordham lost to Connecticut and Army.

In a statement, the league also said it could direct its attention to possible expansion.

"We anticipate that this change in policy will make the Patriot League a more attractive destination for potential expansion candidates for both football-only and all-sport members," the league said.

The Patriot League began as a football-only league, but has since become more well known for basketball. The conference's basketball schools are American, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh and Navy.

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