Football Fallout: Decision to Suspend Program Has Hurt Finances and Enrollment

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Football Fallout: Decision to Suspend Program Has Hurt Finances and Enrollment

Two months after the suspension of the football program at Earlham, the repercussions of the decision
are already being felt.
Ten players have transferred from Earlham and five others are considering leaving. Some football alumni
say that have also stopped donating to the school because they weren’t consulted about the decision.
Keith Morey, class of 1996, who played football at Earlham from 1992 to 1995, said, “To my knowledge,
somewhere around 50 plus alums emailed in the week prior to the decision to express their concerns
about walking away from the football program.”
Avis Stewart, Earlham College’s acting president, defended the decision. “Alumni could see how much
the program was struggling in all aspects, but alumni don’t get contacted on decisions of this nature
until after a decision has been made,” Stewart said.
In its announcement, Earlham said it was suspending the football program because the team couldn’t fill
the roster size to compete with other schools and having 39 players going against schools with more
than 70 members was a major safety concern for the players.
A 2015 plan by Earlham had called for the roster to grow from 45 players in 2016 to 50 in 2017 and 60 in

  1. The November announcement noted, “The program did not attain its growth goals, and the roster
    has remained at 45 or fewer over the past four years.”
    Luke Brake, an offensive lineman, who was a sophomore at Earlham but has now transferred to DePauw
    University, was disappointed. “I feel like the school quit on a large group of young, talented football
    players,” he said. “In my opinion, a new coaching staff could have brought in 25-30 freshman. Combine
    that with the guys we had coming back and I think we definitely would have won multiple games. But
    now we’ll never know.”
    The football program has struggled for many years. Its record was 3-87 over the last nine years, and this
    last season, it finished 0-10, its fifth consecutive winless campaign. It is currently on a 53-game losing
    streak, the longest in Division III history.
    Stewart said, “Look at our men’s and women’s basketball team’s. Now they’re both not having the
    greatest seasons but they are competitive, and both teams are a play or two away from having two or
    three more wins than they do and that is what we want to get football back to. More competitive and a
    better experience for our players.”
    The football program’s suspension comes against a backdrop of financial problems at Earlham. The
    college just announced a budget reduction of $4.3 million for the coming academic year along with staff
    and faculty reductions. That comes a year after the college cut the budget by $2 million.
    The football program, despite its struggles, has been a consistent source of revenue by helping
    enrollment.

In 2016, 17 students matriculated because of the team, in 2017, it was 22, and, in 2018, it was 17. Those
numbers were more than for any other sports team at Earlham.
The college said that it intends to revive the program in the 2020-2021 academic year, but it will have to
do so with a new staff as all the coaches have already left since the announcement. Julie Kline, Earlham’s
athletic director, said that a search for a new coach has not yet begun.
The uncertainty has alumni sitting on the sidelines, but they are willing to get back in the game and help
the college.
“There are still alums willing to contribute, including myself, and I believe many more will step up if EC
can show that they are serious about supporting a football team,” Morey said.

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