After a record-breaking season, the football team is unmissable on campus with its 184-man roster, up from 127 in 2018, sparking interest in the advantages sheer numbers may bring to a sports team in comparison to those with only around 30 players at a time– the norm for most sports teams at Alma.
Because of the rather large roster, new lockers were installed at $1400 a piece, a considerable expense associated with the growing team. In response, it was noted that this would benefit lacrosse, as well, as they both utilize the lockers. While this point seems to be mute because lacrosse is a 19-man team and could never fill this space, Jason Couch, head football coach, raised another point.
“How much money does each person sitting on those lockers provide the college?” Couch asked. A valid question as the multitude of new players does increase the colleges’ retention and enrollment rates. The same cannot be said for other sports on that level because clearly no other sport has assembled a roster so large.
When looking at a team like football, it is easy for other athletes on campus to see the extra lifting times, new equipment and locker room expansions the team is getting in comparison to themselves and feel inferior. It is often over complicated by other athletes or used to signal that football gets special treatment, but it’s only due to how fast the team is growing.
The team needs more lifting times, they must purchase new equipment and they arguably must expand the locker rooms in order to accommodate the colossal number of players they have acquired.
The answer to the image of more specialized training and better equipment and facilities associated with the previously mentioned acquisitions lies in the alumni connections, fundraising tactics, coach advocacy and recruitment ability that only accompanies a large and growing program like that of Alma College Football.
Football utilizes fundraising tactics like that of no other. Each player is expected to fundraise $250 for the program resulting in roughly $46,000 if every player meets this goal. Also, with more players comes more alumni and even more money. The new locker rooms in 2018 were paid for by one hundred percent fundraised money, and seven alumni alone raised more than $7500 for a team lounge according to Coach Couch.
“Myself and the other coaches also work hard to fundraise to help pay for costs. I often take days out of the summer or nights throughout the year to meet with an alum or go to fundraising events,” said Couch.
This puts forward a standard that other coaches should pursue even if their alumni pool is much smaller. While they may be unable to raise thousands, just hundreds could make a big difference for the smaller teams on campus. It may create opportunities for growth if alumni connections were ignited.
“On the swim team, we have what seems like relatively no active alumni connections. I think it would be smart to start fundraising this way, or just fundraising in general because we have a lot we want… to fix to better our program,” said Grace Ludema (‘24), a member of the Alma College Women’s Swim and Dive team.
Another thing football has done extremely well recently is keeping all athletes in the classroom and academically eligible in part due to SAC classroom checks by coaches. With eleven coaches on staff, this is manageable for them to handle without becoming overwhelmed.
Smaller teams, with one or two coaches, are unable to have as many checks in place.
When looking at other sports, it’s clear coaches can’t be as involved in their players’ lives outside their sport. It is just the reality that there are more responsibilities placed on a player on a smaller team that does not have the posse of coaches rallying around their success both on and off the field.
“The responsibility is on the team to make things like study tables happen. Having a new coach every year means it takes time for them to get settled in, so we have to step up by making sure we are getting our work done,” said Cole Pearson (‘25), captain of the men’s lacrosse team.
This again points to the idea that the larger, more consistent base that football has, even within its coaching staff, aids in its success and accomplishments on the field and in the classroom.
While it’s impossible for all sports to be roughly 14 to 20 percent of the student body population like football, smaller sports may have a better chance to match the accomplishments of football if they were able to gain resources to grow. In turn, teams may be able to make a bigger impact on campus and it could combat the feeling of inferiority to the 184-man team. Maybe the answer to more opportunities for all sports lies within the large numbers. Maybe, other sports should start playing the game football has already seemed to ace: grow the team, build alumni connections, fundraise like no other, and have numerous coaches that advocate for their players at every level of administration and student life.