Even as a movement to compensate collegiate student-athletes gains momentum, particularly in California, the University of Louisiana Lafayette unveiled an initiative Wednesday that encourages scholarship football players to donate to the school's athletic fund.
As reported by The Acadiana Advocate, UL football coach Billy Napier unveiled a new team initiative in his normal mid-week August camp press conference. With the beginning of this school year, all scholarship UL football players will be encouraged to be a minimal level $50 member of the Ragin' Cajun Athletic Foundation. Walk-on members of the team are under no pressure to become immediate donors.
New RCAF executive director Lee De Leon addressed the team Wednesday morning, detailing the inner workings of the RCAF fundraising process and how it impacts the student-athlete experience.
“That’s probably a little bit unheard of and a little bit unique, but I think this is a place where that would be appreciated,” Napier said of the initiative. “I think it’s part of the type of program that we want to have. We want our players to be educated and understand the benefits that come with being a student-athlete and that is not something that should be taken lightly — the effort and time and investment that the people that support athletes at UL have put in into this program.”
Napier originally said during the press conference that joining the RCAF was required for scholarship players, but UL assistant AD for communications and digital strategy Patrick Crawford later clarified that the initiative is not mandatory.
"The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Department of Athletics is thrilled that head coach Billy Napier’s football program and its student-athletes expressed their collective desire to give back and show gratitude to the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation. Members of the football program have started an initiative to demonstrate their appreciation to the RCAF, including its board of directors, staff and investors, when they are able to do so," Crawford said in a statement.
"Additionally, student-athletes will be encouraged to join the RCAF at the introductory level during their college careers, an initiative the program and its coaching staff supports in order to give back to the foundation that has done so much to support the Louisiana football team and the department of athletics."
In addition to influencing the players’ perspective now, the athletic department is hoping the rule establishes a long-term bond with the university.
“We’re trying to create a scenario where five or 10 years from now these are guys who will give back and continue to be a part of the program and realize what this place did for them,” Napier said. “I think we got that message across this morning and certainly that was a good thing.”