What some are calling a change in Pitt football’s scholarship policy by the athletic department isn’t sitting well with several recent Panthers players.
Pitt’s redshirt seniors that have already graduated were expecting to remain on scholarship for the spring 2019 semester.
Instead, many feel as if they have been given the boot.
According to the families of several players, football players that were redshirt seniors int he past had their scholarships run through the end of the spring semester following their final football game, in order to allow them to work on an additional degree — something that was offered as a benefit to those that agreed to redshirt.
This year’s seniors say they began the 2018-19 school year under the impression they would be able to stay on scholarship through the end of the school year, but now that will not be the case for some.
Pittsburgh Sports Now learned of the issue through conversations with several parents of Pitt football players, all of whom asked to remain anonymous.
A particular issue seems to be that it was only until after the fall semester began that all of the seniors became fully aware of the situation, and now some are left with leases to pay for.
Housing costs are part of the full cost of attendance stipend that scholarship players receive, which can total as much as $6,000 per year.
“When they signed lease agreements last year, it was for an entire year, and maybe had parents known, we would have tried to find a six-month lease or a lesser lease,” one parent told PSN.
Perhaps more importantly, the move smacked to some as Pitt showing a lack of appreciation for the players’ five years of work in the classroom and on the football field.
Sources have told PSN that some members of the Pitt football staff have unsuccessfully lobbied athletic director Heather Lyke to have the policy change reversed.
Through an athletic department statement, Pitt denied that the decision represented a change in policy, but acknowledged that the decision on whether or not to approve aid for the spring semester for each student athlete was not made until the fall semester had already began.
“Any student-athlete who requested funding for graduate school, or to complete their undergraduate degree, had their request honored,” Pitt said in response to a request for comment from athletic director Heather Lyke. “This is consistent with our past practices — and not a change in policy — for any student-athlete with an undergraduate degree who wanted to continue post-baccalaureate work. The process for receiving such funding was clearly conveyed well in advance of the fall semester concluding.”
Pitt had 16 redshirt seniors on scholarship in 2018, and 13 of them are listed as Pitt graduates in their athlete bios: wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes, fullback George Aston, offensive lineman Alex Bookser, safety Dennis Briggs, offensive lineman Connor Dintino, defensive end James Folston, Jr., defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, offensive lineman Mike Herndon, wide receiver Kellen McAlone, cornerback Phillipie Motley, running back Qadree Ollison, defensive tackle Shane Roy and linebacker Quintin Wirginis.
Additionally, offensive lineman Stefano Millin earned his degree from Kent State before joining Pitt last fall as a graduate transfer. Players that had not yet finished their undergraduate degree were not affected.
Players remaining on scholarship would continue to effect the football team’s GPA and Academic Progress Rate.