Georgetown Fights On...As It Should

They play at a 2,500-seat stadium called Cooper Field.  They do not give any athletic scholarships in a league that allows teams to give out 45.  They are known for basketball.  They are the Georgetown Hoyas, proud members of the Patriot League. 
When the Patriot League started in 1986, it was modeled after the Ivy League.  It was a group of elite private schools that wanted to play football but did not want to offer the 63 athletic scholarships that 1-AA (now FCS) football allowed.  The Ivy League loved their model because they could play each other in nonconference games on equal footing.  If you qualified for financial aid, wanted to go to a great school and wanted to play Division I football, the Patriot League was for you. 
As the years marched on, the Patriot League schools grew frustrated.  Though they were great schools, they didn’t carry the cache of the Ivies and as a result, play on the football field suffered.  In 2009, Fordham had had enough.  Tired of losing games to Northeast FCS schools, they decided to give athletic scholarships.  The six other PL schools balked and made the Rams ineligible to win the conference title.  They would schedule Fordham, but at the end of the year, the Rams conference record would be 0-0. 
Fordham’s plan worked.  They weren’t eligible for the PL title, but they were eligible for the FCS playoffs, playoffs that they qualified for on more than one occasion.  The other PL schools eventually saw the light of Fordham’s ways and decided to offer scholarships--45 of them--and even though that is below the FCS limit of 63, it certainly allows the members to field competitive football teams. 
There was one exception: Georgetown.  The Hoyas stated that they were going to offer only need-based aid and no athletic scholarships.  They refused to leave the league.  The Pioneer League, which doesn’t offer athletic scholarships would have welcomed Georgetown with open arms, but the Hoyas were determined to stay put and battle the likes of Colgate and Fordham without free rides for talented players. 
How have they done?  Well, that depends on how you value football.  If you believe that having a football team adds to a school’s profile, then Georgetown has done fine.  Playing football on Saturdays in the fall has always added to the prestige of a school’s profile.  Yes, there is a difference between 110,000 at Michigan’s “Big House,” and a gathering of 3,400 that were at Marist for its game against Bucknell, but football has always served as something to do on a fall Saturday, or at the very least, something to follow.  I attended Brockport, a Division III school, and even though I didn’t attend many games, one of the reasons I chose the school was because it had a football team.  It was nice to see your school’s score in the Sunday paper win or lose. 
The Ivy League schools have had football for over a century.  Yale was a national power for much of the early 1900s.  They gave us Walter Camp, the father of the modern game. The rules he implemented still exist today.  Do the Ivies make money on football?  Do they seek domination at the national level?  Do they believe that football is more important than their others sports?  The answer of course, is no, but they have always valued football as an opportunity for students to meet, reunions to happen and to enhance the general social atmosphere.  We know that’s the utopian attitude to take, the old “as long as the boys give a great effort, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose.”  We know that at Alabama, too many 9-3 records will get you fired.  Mark Richt won nine or ten games every year at Georgia.  He is now coaching Miami.  Even the Georgetowns of the world want success.  The more success means more attention for the school and that usually results in more applications which helps the school make money. 
Georgetown, by offering football, has succeeded on these fronts, but on the field, they have struggled.  Since 2007, they have a record of 29-69.  That’s not very good.  And, they play in a league that offers athletic scholarships and they do not.  Is there a benefit for the university to have football team?  What purpose does it really serve? 
We live in a world filled with skepticism.  We do take sport way too seriously.  Fantasy football is just as important as real football.  College athletics were supposed to be an added diversion.  For the players it’s a chance to compete beyond high school and for the students it’s something to do to get a break from studying and the pressures that the college life brings.
Georgetown has the right ideal.  The goal is to field a football team, be as competitive as they can while providing that added diversion.  For the university, to simply give up would go against the old college try that made intercollegiate athletics what it is supposed to be.  Today, if a team loses one game; their national championship hopes are ruined.  For the old powers, an 8-4 season is labeled an unmitigated disaster and coaches and athletic directors are fired.  Last year, LSU nearly fired head coach Les Miles and now, at 0-1, the critics are saying that this might be his last year in Baton Rouge.  Mind you, his Tigers lost by two points—16-14—to a very solid Wisconsin team in a game that was played in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 
Georgetown has improved in recent years.  Last year, they finished 4-7, but they lost 17-13 to Patriot League champion Colgate; 33-28 to Lehigh; and 38-31 to FCS playoff qualifier Fordham.  In today’s winning only matters, I guess those losses don’t cut the cake, but college athletics should always be about more than just winning. 
Last week, the Hoyas throttled Davidson 38-14 in a game that paired schools that don’t offer athletic scholarships.  This week, the Hoyas head to Poughkeepsie, New York to battle Marist, who like Davidson play in the non-scholarship Pioneer League.  This is a game that the Hoyas know they can win and for that matter so does Marist.
College football needs the Georgetown Hoyas.  They’re good for the game and for the Hoyas; success should not be measured in wins and losses.  When you play in a league that offers scholarship and you don’t, how can the average observer not root for them? 
That said, a win Saturday puts the Hoyas at 2-0 and then…..who knows.