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UVM Football

11/14/08 5:55PM By Brian Porto
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(HOST) College football is in full swing, causing commentator Brian Porto to think about the status of football at the University of Vermont.

(PORTO) Much of what I read in newspaper sports pages leaves me cold, but a recent story about the University of Vermont's club football team warmed my heart. If it seems strange to hear the words "University of Vermont" and "football" in the same sentence, you can imagine how strange it feels to say them in the same sentence. That is because UVM disbanded its varsity football program in 1974, making it one of only two flagship campuses in a state university system in this country without a football team.

But football is back at UVM, in a manner of speaking. The club team, which receives some funds from the University, but must raise approximately $15,000 annually from private donations, is in its second season, thanks to a growing interest in the sport on campus. The 2007 club, which had 25 to 30 players, played a 10-game schedule against semipro teams in the Northeast Independent Football League. This year's club, with about 45 players, has tangled with junior-varsity teams from Bates, Dartmouth, Endicott, Middlebury, Norwich, and Williams.

The Catamounts face all the obstacles to success inherent in a club team. They have struggled to find medical insurance and the services of athletic trainers. Players must learn positions other than those they played in high school, which is difficult when practices occur just three or four times a week. The club's rough edges were evident during a late-September contest at Dartmouth, where the Catamounts suffered a 57-3 drubbing by the Big Green.

But what the Catamounts may lack in speed or strength, they make up for in positive attitudes about playing football. Says Coach David Motherway, "[T]here [are] 50 kids in that locker room who want to play football, and I'm going to give them an opportunity to play against their peers and have a lot of fun." Cornerback Marc Bucklin, a junior, agrees saying, "I thought I was done playing football. I missed playing, and I wanted to have fun."

Still, the question arises whether the current arrangement will evolve into a University-sponsored varsity team. If the club team succeeds, pressure to upgrade it to varsity status will likely increase. But the high cost of varsity football and the small number of talented players produced by Vermont high schools remain formidable barriers to success, just as they were in 1974, making a return to a Division I program offering athletic scholarships highly unlikely.

I hope that if UVM revives varsity football, it creates a low-key, nonscholarship team that plays against likeminded opponents. For now, though, a club team is sufficient. After all, why bother with an upgrade if the players are having fun?

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