Behold, a story of how the news moves in the year of our Lord 2019.
Each day during training camp, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier brings in a speaker from a different walk of life to educate the Ragin’ Cajuns football team. On Wednesday of this week, it happened to be Lee De Leon, executive director of the Ragin’ Cajuns fundraising arm, who informed the players of all the ways his office’s efforts help improve their time as college athletes.
From all accounts, the talk went well. Three players tweeted about it afterward.
— Max Yarbrough (@maxyar1172) August 14, 2019
I’m very grateful for RCAF donors for everything thing they do to support the athletics program at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Thank you for making our lives and journey’s at ULL better. @geauxRCAF @coach_bnapier @MaggardB @ldeleon5 #cULture pic.twitter.com/gZqd3zgHvA
— Nathan Thomas (@nathanthomas_56) August 14, 2019
— david hudson (@_dhud73) August 14, 2019
In speaking to sources in the room, the players were brainstorming ways to help the RCAF help them, at which time Napier suggested the players set aside money from their scholarship stipends to become RCAF donors, which requires a minimum contribution of $50. No one in the room felt like they’d be going viral on Twitter 48 hours later.
Afterward, Napier gave a regularly scheduled press conference, at which point he revealed the initiative. The Acadiana Advocate got the impression Napier used the word “require” but that was a misspeak. Encourage? Yes. Require? No.
“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 told the paper. “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.”
Athletic Business also reported Napier originally said “required,” but ULL assistant AD for communications Patrick Crawford later clarified the policy 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.
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.
Either way, the story remained in Lafayette throughout Wednesday evening, all day Thursday and into early Friday morning. It was posted to Reddit’s college football board around 10:30 a.m. ET and tweeted by the board’s account shortly thereafter.
Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Billy Napier announces that all scholarship players will be required to donate to the school’s athletic fund ($50 minimum), optional for walk-on members of the squad: https://t.co/Xcqg1kGRhA
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) August 16, 2019
And then it was off to the races.
Just filed a column on this Louisiana-Lafayette nonsense. I really can’t believe people in college athletics are this dumb. Still.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) August 16, 2019
This story came out two days ago and is only now catching people's attention because it's at Louisiana-Lafayette, where I'm very curious what the compliance department thinks of this. Or the PR office. Or, hell I don't know, the players. https://t.co/KoE6uypw7E
— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) August 16, 2019
I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see how you can require someone to donate money as a condition of keeping their scholarship/spot on the team. https://t.co/cr11JPVNlD
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 16, 2019
Now, is it still poor optics to even take donations from active athletes? Possibly. That’s a fair critique. Also, this seems fair as well.
Just to add some more context to ULaLa's ridiculousness: They want $50 per player. LSU's TAF membership for students is only $20 (and letterwinners automatically get the benefits when the graduate without having to pay at all)
— PodKATT (@valleyshook) August 16, 2019
But did Napier walk into the locker room and demand $50 from each player, lest their scholarship and playing time be lost? Reader, he did not.
Update> After receiving a significant amount of backlash regarding this idea, Napier addressed the media to explain his thinking.