Powell: The future is bright with LHU Football now playing ‘moneyball’

A helmet of the Lock Haven University football program. The LHU Bald Eagles have ratcheted up their efforts for a winning program by playing ‘moneyball’ with boosters and big opponents. (Photo courtesy of LHU Football)

LOCK HAVEN — Is it just me, or does it feel like there’s a culture change currently happening within Lock Haven University Football?

In the opening game of the season, LHU visited Pittsburgh to play Division I school Duquesne — and I loved it. Yes, I understand they lost in a shutout, 45-0, but that’s not what I’m referring to.

I’m talking about that payday.

You know Lock Haven University received a pretty penny for taking a trip out to west Pennsylvania, and that’s money that can be invested into the football program. Forget the loss on the schedule, that’s brilliant business by LHU, and I applaud them. That’s how programs create change — collecting paydays for investments.that lead to wins.

Everybody knows how much I love the game of ‘moneyball’.

So it shouldn’t come as a shock that I enjoyed an article in the September 7th edition of The Express titled ‘LHU Football ‘Gray Eagles’ Boosters continue to grow’ by Sam Kuperman — the story was an article about the Gray Eagles, a booster organization for Lock Haven University Football. Check it out if you haven’t yet, it’s a great read.

To summarize it, it talks about how the Gray Eagles were founded by several members of the PSAC Champion 1979 LHU football team — including John White, Dave Hess, Bill Sementelli and Bob Narducci. Hess is also popular for winning the 2009 PIAA Pennsylvania State Championship as head coach of Selinsgrove High School. The group officially became a 5013c non-profit in March 2017, and have been aggressively been trying to collect funding for Bald Eagles Football ever since.

Some of what they’ve been doing have been golf outings, cash raffles, silent auctions and the annual Grid Iron Greats Banquet. They also collect a $100 annual membership fee for the Gray Eagles, which they sit between 70-80 members now. They also have a social media campaign to back all of this up, including developing a database of LHU Football alumni.

The group will also help enshrine five new members into the program’s football hall of fame, named the ‘Grid Iron Greats’. They’ll also use this event to generate more funding into the program.

The Gray Eagles have a very simple goal for their existence: To collect revenue to eliminate scholarship gap between Lock Haven University and the rest of the PSAC conference. 100% of money collected goes right into the football program.

The reason for the aggression since early last year?

The realization that LHU was last in the PSAC in available football scholarships and at the very bottom in generated funding. And let’s be honest here, you need money in order to win in college football.

LHU Football head coach Dave Taynor put it perfectly:

“It was really a bond of that 1979 team that is really starting to grow. They’re really wanting to get more alumni that really had a positive experience at Lock Haven University back and involved with the program, back and involved with the university.”

And to close it out:

“And really creating a positive atmosphere for our student-athletes in which they can flourish with their development on and off the field.”

Development is the key word there, and in order to develop, you need facilities, and in order to obtain superior facilities, you need money.

Facts are facts, and LHU gets it, and are doing something about it. The vibe is evident enough, but you have the actual evidence in front of you: There is a culture change happening in Lock Haven, and I have to applaud the Gray Eagles and the LHU athletic department.

And going back to the Duquesne game, I’d like to see LHU expand on that in the future — even playing major FBS schools such as Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple, etc. Maybe even stepping outside of the state once awhile for that paycheck, the marketability would certainly be something to marvel at.

Could you see LHU and Alabama squaring off one day?

Yeah, the Bald Eagles would most likely take a loss in these games, but the money that could be made to invest into the program would be out of this world.

Look at some of the numbers, for example, from SB Nation. This was from the 2016 season:

-Western Kentucky received $1,300,000 for playing at Alabama

-UMass received $1,250,000 for playing at Florida

-Miami (OH) received $1,000,000 for playing at Iowa

-Charlotte received $600,000 for playing at Louisville

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga has the perfect philosophy that I’d like to see LHU adopt. Here are their payouts since 2010, according to the school:

2010 – Auburn ($450,000)

2011 – Nebraska ($475,000)

2012 – South Florida ($435,000)

2013 – Alabama ($450,000)

2014 – Tennessee ($450,000)

2015 – Florida State ($500,000)

2016 – Alabama ($500,000)

2017 – LSU ($500,000)

2018 – Kentucky ($450,000)

Since 2010, UT-Chattanooga collected $4.2 million — for just simply allowing themselves to get blown out. Imagine what that kind of money could do against PSAC opponents.

UTC’s annual game day operating expenses equal up to $513,000, they nearly pull that in just one game. A $500,000 payout also nearly doubles the entire athletic department’s annual recruiting budget for all sports programs — $227,364. Altogether in the 2014-15 season, UT-Chattanooga reported $17,221,945 in total athletic revenue.

The Mocs have also had success on the field as a result — including six winning seasons since 2010 and three straight playoff appearances from 2013-15, even getting to the quarterfinals in the 2014 Division I FCS Playoffs.

That’s the vision I see for the Bald Eagles program, and there’s a very realistic shot of that happening with the current path that LHU is on.

And not only would the money be great, but the exposure would be massive — which helps with recruiting. If DII-type kids want exposure and have an opportunity to play on television, even for once a year, they’ll be very willing to go to that particular school. LHU could get their pick of the litter in the state and region.

Playing big schools for big payouts, television exposure (which also equals advertising revenue) and solid recruits seems like a great plan to me — and it also equals profit for other athletic programs, and most importantly, the university and academics.

Getting rocked will equal to massive success for the Bald Eagles in the future. I expect LHU to look into expanding the level of competition for even bigger payouts than Duquesne.

Think of the potential.

On a smaller scale, Lock Haven University could go from being the owner of the all-time NCAA Division II Football consecutive losing streak record at 52 games, to becoming a Appalachian State-style dominant small school football program.

Funding, alone, can make that happen.

And LHU already has revenue streams to work with as well: Ticket sales, merchandise sales, donations, NCAA/conference payouts, radio/internet broadcasting rights, sponsorships, athletic camps and a contract with Nike to make their uniforms.

The tools were already there, and now the Bald Eagles are expanding on it adding the ‘Gray Eagles’ booster club and receiving ‘blowout’ paydays.

Seriously, think of the potential of the future of Lock Haven University Football.

Dave Taynor is a good football coach, there’s no doubt about that — I believe in his vision and how he runs his team. LHU’s problem has been what it has been for years now: Funding.

Now with that changing, and the culture shifting, the stars could be aligning for Taynor and Co.

Obviously, this will take some time to develop for LHU Football — this has only been transpiring since 2017. But within a few years, we could be looking at a Bald Eagles program that is consistently winning. If the aggression continues, LHU could be looking like that dominant small school.

Imagine that — it would be glorious — LHU clocking everybody in the PSAC with ease.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s obviously some work to do. But the come up is always the best part in anything, and I highly recommend to start paying attention and even getting involved. The future is bright for Bald Eagles Football.

Visualize a few years from now, LHU becomes a consistent winning football program — and it’s becoming obvious they’re a force in the PSAC. As a result, we start seeing a massive turnout to games from the community. Businesses even start shutting down for the games, embracing LHU Football with posters and shirts hanging in their windows in downtown Lock Haven. Massive crowds of people walking to Hubert Jack Stadium throughout town, similar to the scene in ‘We Are Marshall’ where the entire town of Huntington, West Virginia shut down everything and walked to the stadium for the Marshall University football game.

Imagine that in Lock Haven. It would be absolutely glorious.

And not only would LHU have the funding, the recruits, the fans, the nice stadium, the beautiful campus, the winning, but let’s be honest here, they would have some of the best uniforms and colors in the PSAC — if they don’t already have the best. Seriously, I love LHU’s football jerseys.

Imagine that.

Imagine what that would feel like to be apart of every Saturday in the fall.

It would be awesome.

To the city of Lock Haven and surrounding areas with interest, I advise you to keep your eyes on the LHU football program. Even volunteer your time and help with the success.

Wouldn’t you want to be partly responsible for and take pride in championship glory?

It has a nice ring to it: championship glory.

With the current culture change taking place in Lock Haven and the revenue seemingly increasing, that could be the result in the next few years.

The future is extraordinarily exciting for ‘The Haven’.