As part of the lead up to the Villanova-Lehigh game, I shot some questions over to Chuck Burton, HNIC at the fantastic blog Lehigh Football Nation, perhaps the most well written blog for an individual football team in in America. Below are his answers to my questions
1. When do you think the Patriot League will finally give in and realize that Scholarships are in the best interest of their teams?
If you ask football fans and coaches, you'll probably hear that they all believe that full scholarships will make their teams better - and coaches' jobs easier on the recruiting trail. However, the folks that need to be convinced are the Patriot League university presidents - committing to full football scholarships may be a lot more pricey than folks think, too, thanks to Title IX, and presidents may not be willing or able to do so.
I think full scholarships will eventually happen - most likely after this season - but the real question is will the Patriot League be the same whatever happens. The ultimate issue might not be philosophy, but survival. If they don't give full scholarships, will more teams follow Fordham out the door? Or if they do get full scholarships and keep Fordham, will other schools leave?
2. How do you think Lehigh stacks up in this year's Patriot League?
Most years the Patriot League is very wide-open, and this year is no exception. Colgate is pretty much the consensus favorite, but folks at Lafayette and Holy Cross have good reasons to believe that they have a shot at the title. Lehigh, with so many seniors on the team, have to be considered in the mix for the title as well. They have as good a chance as the Raiders, Leopards and Crusaders of taking it.
3. If Villanova fans had to know the name of two Lehigh players (one on offense and one on defense) who would they be?
OL Will Rackley is a bona-fide NFL prospect on Lehigh's "O" line, and the fact that they gave up 0 sacks to an aggressive Drake defense was a real badge of pride for the unit. Defensively, LB Al Pierce was the hero of last years' win over Lafayette and kicked off last week with 2 1/2 tackles for loss as well. If he's healthy, Lehigh's defense will be tough.
4. What do you see as the strengths, weaknesses of this year's Lehigh squad?
The strengths are a strong defense, returning a ton of starters and some really good playmakers, and a strong return game featuring DB/RS John Kennedy and DB/RS Jarard Cribbs. The big weakness is that Lehigh is in effect breaking in a new QB, Chris Lum, and a new offensive coordinator, so there is uncertainty there. Lehigh also needs to learn how to win close football games. Five of their seven losses last year were by a TD or less.
5. I'm of the belief that this game should be a staple of Villanova's Out of Conference schedule. How do Lehigh Football fans feel that this game may be discontinued?
All the Lehigh fans I've seen are real happy with the series, and I agree with them, I love this game. Most Lehigh fans would love to see either Delaware or Villanova on the schedule every year - a Top 25 team to test ourselves against. Losing this game really takes away an opportunity to see the Mountain Hawks take on a great FCS opponent - home or away. In addition, I think Lehigh's fans traveled pretty well when we've played, too, which is something important to consider. It makes for a really good atmosphere, and it's an easy game to get to from the Lehigh Valley. There should always be more games like this, not less.