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Austin Peay announces return to scholarship football, OVC

Austin Peay will return to scholarship football in 2006 with the plan of rejoining the Ohio Valley Conference a year later.

This is an exciting moment in the history of athletics at APSU, said APSU President Sherry Hoppe. I am excited for our alums, including our former football players, and campus and community leaders who strongly believed we should be playing at the scholarship level in the OVC.
Austin Peay will return to scholarship football in 2006 with the plan of rejoining the Ohio Valley Conference a year later.

“This is an exciting moment in the history of athletics at APSU,” said APSU President Sherry Hoppe. “I am excited for our alums, including our former football players, and campus and community leaders who strongly believed we should be playing at the scholarship level in the OVC.

“APSU's public and internal images were diminished when scholarship football was dropped. I think it affected how students viewed this University. I see this as an investment in Austin Peay's future.”

APSU, which dropped from scholarship to non-scholarship football after the 1996 season, will leave the Pioneer Football League following the upcoming 2005 season. In 2006, APSU will transition from non-scholarship to partial-scholarship status as an I-AA independent, largely because the NCAA allows a maximum of 30 scholarship awards per season. Then in 2007, APSU plans to rejoin the OVC as a full-scholarship (60 grants) member.

After Hoppe was appointed president in January 2001, she was deluged with queries by former players, alums and supporters about the possibility of returning to scholarship football.

“Our financial condition at that time of my hiring did not allow me to consider the possibility of returning to scholarship football,” Hoppe said. “With three years of enrollment increases, we are positioned to support scholarship football.”

In early December, a letter, written by Hoppe, detailed a plan to return the University to scholarship football. It was sent to former APSU players and other potential donors.

The plan stated the University, through several different sources, could fund as many as 45 scholarships at a cost of $382,000 per year plus the necessary resources for recruiting, an additional assistant coach and gender-equity compliance. However, the plan indicated the remaining 15 annual scholarships would need to come from private funds over a five-year period, totaling $150,000 per year for five years ($750,000 total).

Four months of fundraising left the University less than $30,000 per year short of their goal. After last weekend's Football Reunion Weekend and the resulting goodwill generated from the gathering, APSU reached its goal this week.

“Over the past few months we have contacted a large number of former football players, and the response has been tremendous,“ Hoppe said. “This past weekend more than 100 former players returned to campus and we surpassed our goal of $750,000 in pledges.”


She added that the University's new challenge is to continue to raise private dollars to support the football program so that APSU can be competitive in the OVC at the championship level.
—Brad Kirtley