D-III goes worldwide: John Carroll arrives in Ireland

John Carroll at a rally at Trinity College in Dublin, IrelandMy name is Jarrod Kilburn, and I’m a junior quarterback at John Carroll University. In January 2011, it was announced that we were selected to face St. Norbert College in Dublin, Ireland as part of the Global International Football Tournament (GIFT) 2012, which also includes five high school football games featuring both U.S. and Canadian teams over the course of three days. GIFT 2012 is meant to showcase the growing game of American football in Ireland and leads up to the annual Notre Dame-Naval Academy game, with this edition being played in Dublin under the name of the Emerald Isle Classic. Our coaches and administration worked tirelessly to allow us to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m ecstatic to cover it for avid Division III football fans across the country.

Here’s Jarrod’s first entry:

The trip started with a team breakfast at 8 a.m. (eastern), double-checking the equipment bags over at Shula Stadium, and to load the buses. Luckily they were there on time and we were loaded and off to Cleveland-Hopkins International before 10. Surprisingly, for bringing almost 80 large human beings with 2 to 3 bags each, we breezed through security in under an hour. I was at our gate before 11, leaving me plenty of time to panic before we took off at 1:35 p.m. for JFK International in New York. There are few things that I hate more than flying and I can almost guarantee that I will be the most uneasy rider on flight 3582, even worse than any first-time flyers.

I never realized how close New York and Cleveland were before that flight. Hard to believe it was only a little over an hour to get there. While it was short, it was definitely an uncomfortable flight – planes that small are not meant for a college football team. Too many people in a too small space, but it still beat driving. Once we got settled, we split off and grabbed lunch and hung around the airport until we boarded out flight for Dublin at 8:30 – five and a half hours after we arrived in New York. I was beyond thrilled to see recharge stations every few feet because my laptop and iPod were not going to make the whole flight overseas without dying on me. I gotta say, Tom Petty had it right – waiting really is the hardest part. I wish we could board right now, partly out of getting the flight over with, but mostly because this whole thing will finally seem real. It’s crazy to think that I was at the presser for this game in January ’11 as a freshman with it one and a half years away and now it’s only a few days from actually happening. It’s difficult to put excitement into words at this point!

I still am having trouble believing that I’m actually in Dublin. I keep waiting for someone to say that this whole thing is a joke and that we’re in Dublin, Ohio. It really is that surreal. The flight over was not bad considering we all pretty much slept the whole way over and was extremely smooth. After passing through customs and claiming our bags, we split up into offensive and defensive buses and were taken on a tour of the area. The highlights of the tour were seeing the castles formerly under the control of the Talbots and the Taylors and hearing a little bit about their histories, as well as having lunch in Dublin and seeing the city for ourselves. Once we finished there, we bused to our hotel a few miles outside the city. The hotel is unreal – beyond big and built on a golf course. It literally is picture perfect, and that isn’t even doing it full justice. After getting checked in, though, it was back to business as we boarded our buses again to a nearby field for practice. Following that, we showered up, grabbed a great Irish dinner, and then had a quick team meeting before breaking up for the night. I have to say though; the time change was a bit bizarre, as at some point during the flight over the Atlantic we all of a sudden lost five full hours. At first, it was a non-issue since we were all so excited to finally be in Dublin, but it definitely hit us pretty hard once we left the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life, to be honest, as I’ve slept maybe three out of the past thirty-two hours. By far, one of the longest but best days I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings and continue our preparations for St. Norbert’s Friday night. Onward on!

More on the John Carroll-St. Norbert game in Dublin:

Blue Streaks | Green Knights | Kilburn’s bio | JCU in Kickoff ‘ 12 | G.I.F.T. | Broadcast | Game notes

St. Norbert senior DB Josh Vanden Heuvel’s video blog with WLUK-TV in Green Bay

Pay for play? Here’s one coach’s take

Mike Clark, Bridgewater head coach, has plenty of Division III and Division I experience. He’s chaired the Division III football rules committee. He played at Cincinnati and was an assistant coach at Virginia Tech. So his take on one of the hot topics of the day in college athletics comes from experience on both sides.

Michael Clark
I am using this as a forum to get an opinion and information out relative to the “pay these players” ideas that have hit a lot of the national media outlets. Mind you I am not a Division I “hater” having played and coached for 14 years at that level. I am well aware of the differences in Saturday afternoon at Bridgewater vs. Blacksburg (I have coached at both) in the fall. BCS football does make millions of dollars for their respective programs, I believe there is some hidden guilt in the million-dollar coaches club, but the notion that Division I football players are unable to eat hamburgers or go on dates because of stretched finances needs to be looked at a bit closer.

It is a fact that both men’s football and basketball because of the demographic they deal with will deal with a higher level of needy students than men’s lacrosse or women’s soccer at the division I level. However, one issue that is never added to the discussion is that a need-based student who qualifies for Federal Pell Grant money receives that money in addition to being on a full scholarship. That scholarship includes tuition/fees/room-board/books and at BCS schools more “swag” (warm-ups, shirts, shoes, gear) that you could wear, give away, or sell (see Ohio State) in your time there. These grants could be as low as $555 per year (family of four with one child in college, income under $50,000) or up to $5,550 per year (family of four with one child in college, income under $20,000). To me a budgeted young man can go out a time or two on this stipend. Actually, it is our tax dollar that helps these kids with the incidentals involved in their college experience.

In addition, the NCAA itself provides need based opportunity grants to needy student athletes at any level to help them with some of the hidden, sudden, and necessary expenses involved with college. These grants involve paperwork, and it is usually the NCAA institutions at the higher levels that have administrative staff to focus on these that pull in the lion’s share of this money. Any student (scholarship or not) would be able to take out a Federal Stafford Loan up to $5,500.00 (interest deferred if you are poor) which could be used to cover total cost of education.

Think back about 6 years ago where legislation was passed allowing scholarship student athletes to work while being on scholarship. This was the financial problem solver then, but ask any ACC or SEC coach if they have kids working part-time during the school year and be prepared to get that “how stupid are you … yeah, right,” stare.

If a school abides by the mandatory time limits that the NCAA dictates on the activity of scholarship athletes, that job in itself pays anywhere from $26 to $52 per hour (out of state), according to a Penn State study. I have a nephew who co-ops as a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at Ohio State who wishes he earned that much.

Education is an investment in you and the college experience should be a springboard where some personal equity in it (even if that includes a loan) is not a bad thing. I do not deny any accountant could go to Virginia Tech and figure out that the football program makes millions and these players are a critical part of that. However, those millions support almost every other program that also involves a lot of scholarship athletes whose sports will never have revenue-generating potential. Think of the Title IX implications if cash starts going out. From a federal point of view there is no value difference in the quarterback or a setter in women’s volleyball.

As a college freshman in 1975 I was in the last class that every month with my full scholarship got a $25.00 “laundry money” check as it was called then to cover incidental expense. On that Friday in the offseason we also gave blood for $15.00 and the next two weekends were set. I was a middle income full-scholarship athlete (there are a lot of them out there) and I do not remember using the money for laundry. To think that cash to athletes will prevent another Ohio State or solve cheating issues which unfortunately will always be around is naïve. There is a little glass in everybody’s house at all levels of college football and money to players at the BCS level is a Pandora’s Box.

Although it is debatable at times, we need to keep the education component hooked in college athletics. I see kids at my level who are just as passionate and committed as those at the BCS level. They were not big or fast enough at the high school level to get the opportunity to play, get educated, and set you up for life with your college experience debt-free. There really is very little entitlement at the Division III level which is one of our strengths. To get them to spend for this opportunity we have to sell the college experience as a game-changing investment for life. This is also true at the BCS level and its added value should be sufficient in addition to the scholarships without the cash.

After the SCAC shuffle, what’s next?

Trinity athletics photo

As a football conference in the Division III model, the SCAC never made sense. The geographic footprint, from Colorado to Indiana to Alabama to Texas, created a demand on travel costs that small-college budgets usually find unnecessary.

Colorado College realized this and abruptly dropped football after the 2008 season. But they weren’t the only outlier. Rose-Hulman left after the 2006 season to join the HCAC, which is Indiana and Ohio-based. DePauw, finding a group of schools with similar academic cache in closer proximity, decided this year to join Indiana rival Wabash in the NCAC, beginning in 2012.

That left seven football members behind in the SCAC, enough to maintain its automatic bid to the 32-team playoff field. Schools from coast to coast – LaGrange, Cornell and Chapman – announced new conference affiliations this offseason. But nothing shakes up the national picture like seven schools withdrawing from a 12-school conference; of the seven football-playing members, five are forming a new conference that will require less travel but would need to add two football programs and then wait two years to get an automatic bid. Trinity and Austin retain the SCAC name and history but need five football-playing members — and two “core” members in all sports — to keep their AQ.

The SCAC has been very explicit in news stories and press releases that it intends to continue on, and potential new members have been contacted.

Who exactly might those be? What ripple effects can Division III expect?

With the remaining SCAC schools mostly Texas-based, this would seem to be a ripe opportunity for any school in the ASC that feels it either isn’t competitive or wants to align itself with Trinity and Austin (which left the ASC and took Rose-Hulman’s place in the SCAC) to make the leap. Texas Lutheran comes to mind, while Howard Payne and East Texas Baptist wouldn’t be total shocks.

It also means any NAIA school, particularly those in the Mid-South Conference and perhaps the KCAC, which eyes the NCAA’s financial stability has its opening. There are also four NAIA schools in Oklahoma, two independents in Florida and another independent, Southern Virginia, which has expressed interest in moving to Division III. Those schools might not all fit in the SCAC, but might come into play if teams begin shuffling their affiliations.

Centenary (La.) has moved from Division I to III, and joined the ASC, but doesn’t yet offer football.

Then of course, there’s the obvious: Huntingdon, one of the last football independents in D-III, has eagerly sought out a conference. The Hawks joined the SLIAC for one season, then the conference dropped football. The SCAC-7 (those schools that just broke off from the SCAC) appear to have not been interested in the Hawks, but the SCAC-5 might take them out of necessity. They’d be a core member.

That’s an example of the tough spot the SCAC is in. With 50 years of history and a reputation for academic prestige, the conference – whose commissioner of 16 years, Dwyane Hanberry, is staying on – would probably like to maintain how it is perceived. We might hear a lot of talk about being “excited for the future” or schools that “fit the SCAC profile,” but from an outsider’s view, it’s hard to see how the SCAC-5 isn’t desperate.

The SCAC-5, remember, has just two football schools. Colorado College recently dropped the sport, and Southwestern and U. of Dallas don’t seem to be on track to add it. Huntingdon would be a third. If the SCAC stole more than two from the nine-member ASC, then that conference’s automatic bid would be in jeopardy.

The odd thing is Division III had narrowed itself down to just three football independents, and only two with scheduling problems. Huntingdon is one. Wesley, which is a competitive fit for the NJAC but as a private school can’t afford to play by that conference’s rules, such as 100-player roster limits, might look to revive talks of football in its all-sports conference, the CAC. The third, Macalester, is independent by choice, having left the MIAC in the early part of the decade. The St. Paul-based school also has 14 potential opponents in Minnesota, plus dozens more nearby in Iowa and Illinois.

A former independent, LaGrange already made its move this offseason, to the USAC, where former football-only affiliate Maryville and non-football Piedmont joined this offseason, All three were members of the GSAC in other sports. Shenandoah announced plans to leave the USAC for the ODAC in all sports –- citing reduced travel as a reason – last fall.

The USAC moves leave few Division III schools in the south looking to move. A GSAC/SCAC-5 merger doesn’t make much sense for football because of the four women’s schools and the distance from Southwest Virginia to Colorado. Rust (Holly Springs, Miss.) is in no shape to add the sport.

The USAC might not have seen its last shuffle either. Averett, N.C. Wesleyan and Christopher Newport could join Wesley in the CAC, which currently doesn’t sponsor football. Salisbury and Frostburg State, which joined the Empire 8 as a football-only affiliates for access to an automatic bid and because Norwich had left the E8 one member short, could come back home and give the CAC six football playing members. Two sources have told D3sports.com that Neumann (Pa.) is considering adding football, which could be a potential seventh, as could Marymount (Va.) if it added the sport. Catholic, a former member of the CAC, competes in the ODAC for football and the non-football Landmark conference for other sports.

Another potential seventh member, Stevenson, which plays its first football game this season, recently left the CAC for the MAC.

So why all the movement?

First, access to automatic bids, especially in sports like football where at-large bids are scarce, is key. But schools prefer being in conferences for ease of scheduling, formation of natural rivalries, an enhanced athletic experience (i.e. all-conference awards, etc.) and association. Schools like being aligned with certain peers, because of the perceptions it creates.

The SCAC certainly did that. But perhaps the main reason Division III schools like their conferences are something the SCAC-5 still doesn’t care about: containing travel costs.

That would open the door for Westminster (Utah), an NAIA member whose name was mentioned in The Colorado Springs Gazette as a potential member. They’d be the third Westminster in D-III, joining the ones in Missouri (UMAC) and Pennsylanvia (PAC).

If Trinity and Austin can’t save the SCAC’s football automatic bid, they might be forced elsewhere to look for affliate membership. Or, they could dangle their bid and entice others – perhaps the four schools in the UAA (Case Western Reserve, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon and Wash U.) could join to create a who-cares-about-travel-costs football league. It certainly would be prestigious, but it would need a seventh member to keep the AQ.

The perfect seventh member, Rochester, figured something out long ago. Flying a football team across the country four or five times a season is cost-prohibitive. The Yellowjackets, a member of the UAA in other sports, are in the New York-based Liberty League for football.