On the 28th of September, the Cornell Big Red were scheduled to the take on the Franklin Pierce Ravens in a divisional game at Schoellkopf field. The lightweight bout was set to be a much-anticipated rematch of last season’s 19-14 nail-biter. Unfortunately, the lights will not shine this Friday night.
News broke this Monday that Franklin Pierce University has been, for lack of a better phrase, kicked out of the Collegiate Sprint Football League. After two straight games that featured egregious violations of the league’s 178-pound weight limit, the league office had no choice but to cancel the remainder of FPU’s schedule, removing the Ravens from playoff contention, deeming them ineligible for all weekly and postseason awards. Following its season opener against Navy, the legitimacy of FPU’s official weigh-ins was called into question. Multiple players appeared to be well over 200 lbs. Though it is not uncommon for players around the league to cut almost 20 pounds, the sheer size of several players raised eyebrows. The picture that captured the magnitude of these violations was taken following their 45-7 loss to Navy.
The Navy player to the left was reported to cut upwards of ten pounds each week in order to make the 178-lb weight limit. Number 78 from Franklin Pierce dwarfs this almost 190-lb man to his left. After this picture surfaced around the league, FPU’s total disregard for the rules was viewed as both comical and dishonest. The next week, FPU was set to play Post. They were warned that there would be serious ramifications if they rolled out the same meat locker of a roster that they did the previous week. Franklin Pierce did not care.
With plans to field a regular Division II program next year, Franklin Pierce brought in a recruiting class that would be able to compete at that level. With a reported ten of their recruits being offensive and defensive lineman, the Ravens were faced with a difficult decision. Do they let half of their recruiting class sit out for an entire year? Or do they gamble by playing the overweight guys, getting as many snaps in as possible before they get caught? They chose the latter.
In a statement produced by their athletic department on sprintfootball.com, FPU had this to say about their final season in the CSFL: “We are incredibly grateful for the time we have spent in the Collegiate Sprint Football League,” said Rachel Burleson, Director of Athletics. “We are appreciative of the league and its members allowing us this opportunity to begin to prepare our student-athletes for the future, while we continue to finish out our commitments to the CSFL.”
Though they have lost their official schedule, the Ravens have still managed to get what they wanted from the start of this debacle: reps for next year’s team. Their wins and losses will both count for nothing. The individual success of their players will not be recognized. But they will still get to play three exhibition matches. Penn, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Mansfield have all elected to unofficially keep the outcast program on their schedule. A banged up Cornell team and a championship-defending West Point team have each cancelled their games in an effort to keep players healthy by not risking unnecessary injuries.
Fresh off of a 16-7 loss to Ivy League rival Penn, a frustrated Cornell team yearns for a chance to right the ship. Their first opportunity at redemption will come October 13th, as they look to defend Schoellkopf and neutralize a talented Chestnut Hill offense.