Photo courtesy of Morningside athletics
As most of you know, I am a NAIA football product
The four years I spent at my NAIA program shaped me into who I am today. Those days seem long gone, as it approaches nine years since I played my last game. Looking back, I take pride in my program and all it had to offer to shape me into who I am today.
That however, doesn’t mean that I can’t critique what it has to offer. After all, I have an idea on what could be done to make it a better experience — a better experience for the student-athletes, coaches, administration, student body, local community, and fans.
Here are three things that could make the product immediately better:
1. Pay coaches a livable wage
Repeat after me, the football field is an extension of the classroom. Coaches spend too many hours, and make too much sacrifice to be making only $10,000 per year (some even less). NAIA programs need to stop the revolving door of losing great coaches, who for all intents and purposes are great teachers, because of poor pay.
NAIA programs shouldn’t just be stepping stones, but an opportunity to make a life if coaches choose to stay. Some NAIA programs are doing just that and it is paying dividends for those programs. Many NAIA schools make a killing and could easily afford this.
The NAIA and its programs should work to give coaches the ability to support their own families. It is true that many are looking for bigger opportunities, but those who enjoy the NAIA level should have the ability to make it a career.
Football Scoop has done stories on this that will bring tears to the eye. Paying coaches a respectable wage will keep great coaches around and set up programs for long-term success.
2. Invest in facilities
Athletic budgets are limited. If they weren’t, point No. 1 wouldn’t be listed. As was the case in the previous point, programs should invest in facilities, because the student-athletes deserve it.
It may seem crazy, but just having the right lighting in the locker room could do wonders. Enlarging the training room, so more players could easily rehab could be a practical thing.
One of the coolest things I have seen NAIA programs do is create a lounge for their players to hang out. Schools should invest in facilities to maximize the student experience.
3. Get on ESPN3 or YouTube
Indiana Wesleyan is one of the better programs when it comes to getting exposure. The program actually has a contract to feature its sports on ESPN3. St. Francis (IN) does an amazing job of getting its games on YouTube.
Parents having to pay a fee to watch games on low-quality streaming services no longer has to be the norm. ESPN3 and YouTube are two well-known and easily accessible applications. Having this exposure for these programs will also make it way easier to recruit.