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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton football faces the loss of 17 non-seniors

<rleton’s varsity football team lost 17 non-seniors this offseason, an unusually high number, even for a team that is used to many off-season roster changes. Dane Birkeland ’18, a team captain said, “Whenever we lose players we take a hit to our depth and the chemistry of the team. Every player on the team is treated like a brother, so when we lose one it is a weird feeling.”

Head Coach Bob Pagel said about the team’s loss in numbers his offseason, “We always have people quit and we always will.That’s just the nature of athletics.You’re going to have attrition. The part that really makes it stand out is the seniors.”

The football team lost multiple incoming seniors, including former tight-end turned student offensive assistant, Mike Frett ’18. Frett, who
suffered a torn labrum last season and was not medically cleared to play this season said, “The vast majority of players dropping out this fall were due to injury. We are playing with the guys we have currently because injuries have derailed some of the other players careers.”

Injuries accounted for a majority of the team’s losses. With the obvious
physical toll football takes on a player’s body, Pagel says he understands a player’s decision to protect their bodies and their futures. “One of the things that I have noticed in 20-some years of coaching, guys are less willing to come back from their injuries. Concussions are a big part of that. I cannot fault those players for those decisions. There is a ton of life left to live, you want to live it with the best self you can and I get that,” Pagel said.

Injuries were not the only reason players left the team this offseason. “The other thing is the number of guys that left school. I don’t remember
a time when that number was as high as it was. Then we also have
some guys doing abroad programs and some of our two-sport guys decided to play their other sport” said Pagel.

Players leaving the school seemed to be a big reason for such a high dropout rate this offseason. Birkeland said “The students who transferred found most of their displeasure with the school as a whole, so they found the team to not be a redeeming enough reason to stay, and for $60,000+ you might as well go to a school that you enjoy attending.”

Chemistry does not seem to be the problem for the team though.Captain Jacob Heath ’19 said, “Each guy who decided not to return had his own reason. Some decided this school wasn’t for them and it wasn’t even a football decision to leave. A few didn’t want to do off-season training. The team chemistry has always been good and no one left because they didn’t like the team. Most decisions stemmed from something besides football.”

While the team may not be the problem for those players who did not return to the team this season, it does put the team at a disadvantage
purely from a numbers perspective. Always a program with smaller numbers, Carleton’s online roster this year only has 56 players, while St. Olaf ’s has 63 players, and St. Thomas has close to 100 players on its online roster.

Both coaches and players agree that their small numbers make it more challenging to practice and play. Pagel said, “Some of the things we would normally do in practice have to be re-formatted for what is available to us.” Meanwhile, Heath stated that “Injuries definitely hurt the team more when there aren’t enough guys to replace the injured.”

Despite the high dropout rate, Coach Pagel says the program doesn’t change their mindset when it comes to recruiting, “We are trying to get as many guys as we can. But in the end, we are at admissions mercy on who gets admitted. So, we just try to take our pool of guys, our pool of talent and try to maximize that and sometimes it takes a couple games to figure it out and go from there” said Coach Pagel.

Meanwhile, as the team tries to deal with its small numbers mixed with new injuries, excitement remains with Carleton football as the team looks to get more results this season. “I am excited to see what is next for the team and the Carleton football program,” said Frett.

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