Presbyterian College confirmed with a release of a new strategic plan on Monday that it will transition to a non-scholarship football program by the 2021 season.
According to the press release, PC will join the Pioneer Football League in football, while continuing to compete in the Big South Conference in all other intercollegiate sports.
“This is bigger than football; this is not just a football decision,” said Presbyterian Marketing Director Kendall Givens-Little. “With this plan, we’re going to be putting in new majors beginning in the fall of next year. We’re going to start a Model UN team, a competitive bass-fishing team, competition cheerleading as well as our other Division I sports.”
The strategic plan, which is entitled “The Promise of PC,” was recently approved unanimously by the PC Board of Trustees.
“The last comprehensive plan for Presbyterian College was approved in 1999, and a lot has changed since then,” Staton was quoted in the release. “With the involvement of more than 500 students, faculty, staff and alumni over the course of 18 months, we developed a plan to position Presbyterian College for academic, athletic and financial success. ‘The Promise of PC’ envisions how the college will thrive by preparing both undergraduate and graduate students to best fulfill their potential and to contribute meaningfully to the communities in which they work and live.”
PC ended the 2017 football season this past Saturday with a 31-21 Big South victory over Gardner-Webb, the Blue Hose’s only conference win of the season. PC has won one conference game in each of the past two years.
The Blue Hose will continue to compete in the Big South for the next three seasons before joining the Pioneer League fulltime with a completely non-scholarship roster in 2021.
“As of right now, for every student who was awarded a scholarship in football, PC will honor those scholarships,” Givens-Little said. “We will still be in the Big South and in Division I. In 2020, we will begin to transition to the Pioneer League with (some of those teams) on our schedule. But PC will honor those footballs scholarships even if they decide not to play football – as long as they are academically in good standing.”
The strategic plan states that its initiatives are designed to strengthen the college “academically, athletically and financially.”
Givens-Little said the school will save a significant amount of money with the move to a non-scholarship conference, despite increased travel. The Pioneer League’s current roster of teams includes San Diego (Calif.), Drake (Des Moines, Iowa), Butler (Indianapolis), Dayton (Ohio) and Marist (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.). The closest member of the Pioneer League is Davidson, near Charlotte.
Reaction to the move has been mixed among alumni who have contacted Givens-Little’s office, he said.
“As it pertains to football, it’s been up and down,” Givens-Little said. “It’s been positive and there have been naysayers.”
PC alumnus Jim Todd (Class of 2009) is among those unhappy to hear that PC is changing course on football.
“I can tell you, I’m pretty disappointed with it,” Todd said via text.
Hall of Fame high school football coach Shell Dula, who won 253 games as head coach at Ninety Six, Union and Greenwood, said he is very disappointed in the decision. Dula added that he fears the decision could be the first step in dismantling the PC football program entirely.
“Football has been very, very positive for PC over a long period of time,” he said. “It has brought great notoriety to our school going back to the days of Walter Johnson and Lonnie McMillan – that Tangerine Bowl team in 1960.
“As a former player, I hate to see us move in that direction. PC football has been so positive and generated a great deal of excitement – some years more than others, but I’m not in favor of it, and I hate it. I’m not questioning those who made the decision, but as an individual who played there, I’m opposed to it.”
Dula played for legendary PC head coach Cally Gault from 1965-68 and graduated from PC in 1969.
PC Head Coach Tommy Spangler and his assistant coaches will still be on the recruiting trail for National Signing Day in February, but will be empty handed as far as athletic scholarships. Instead, they will be able to offer potential players academic grant-in-aid packages.
Spangler, who is in his second stint as head coach of the Blue Hose, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the changes to the football program.