Michigan State Club Football Challenged By Pandemic, Coaching Changes And Funding

Oct 21, 2020

The popular club has to find its own way to schedule, field a team and play during everything changing because of COVID-19.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article did not provide enough context as to why Michigan State University does not provide funding or an athletic trainer for the club football team. It is because it has a student club status, not student club sport designation.

No practice field, no athletic trainer, no university funding, just two coaches, now COVID-19 — it would seem no adversity set before the Michigan State club football team is strong enough to stop it from going forward.

Credit MSU Club Football

The team is not designated as a club sport, only as a student club — a status which means the team isn’t allotted an athletic trainer. All expenses, including gear, travel and lodging are the responsibilities of the players, as well as donations and fundraisers that are team-lead - totaling up to $350 in fees per player – is due prior to the start of the season.

Because the team isn’t one of the 27 club sports teams at MSU, it has no designated training field nor practice facility. With no university funding to rent out fields, the team often practices off-campus at Patriarche Park in East Lansing, a small field less than 100 yards across with no line markers.

The football student club could change itself into a club sport, but the leaders have not yet gotten around to filing the necessary paperwork.

The Spartans now face a new adversary, one that they don’t have to suit up and play against, but one that has affected their entire organization — COVID-19. The global pandemic has put tremendous stress on John Skroly, the team’s president and wide receiver who is in charge of the organization as a whole. 

“It was rough at the beginning because I had to figure out on my own to plan meetings and getting school approval,” said Skroly.

This upcoming season for the Spartans will instead be played in the spring instead of the fall with a limited amount of games. In addition to season changes, the Great Lakes East conference, which the team was a part of, has merged with the Great Lakes West conference. This change was due to several schools electing to forgo their seasons entirely, one including conference rival Eastern Michigan, who forfeited their matchup with the Spartans last season. This has not put a halt in the Spartans’ pursuit for a national championship as well as their unprecedented passion for the sport.

“It doesn’t matter how unorganized it is, or what level it is, football is still football. If I can get one more year, I will be grateful for that,” said Matt Neil, vice president and running back on the team.

“I didn’t play football as much as I wanted to in high school and getting that chance to play, kind of that last ‘hoo-rah’ in college is all I could ask for,” said Skroly.

This upcoming season will have more away out-of-state games in contrast to previous years; the Spartans are also not granted any of the luxuries or amenities as the varsity players, as they’re responsible for travel expenses whether it be bus or carpooling, as well as lodging fees as well, sometimes having 3-4 players per room during these times.

Credit MSU Club Football

“I really feel like those trips out of state built chemistry for the team, we had fun together. We really got to know each other more and it made our bond stronger,” said Neil.

Comradery acts as the hallmark for this Spartans team. Being the underdogs in almost every game, these groups of “misfits” look to uplift themselves through their commitment to each other.

“We all realize we’re the underdogs, but we want to see each other succeed, said Skroly. “We had a guy that went to the hospital with a really serious concussion and everyone on the team went to the hospital to go see him. We’re a band of brothers that look out for each other and not even egos can stop that!”

The dedication, passion and love underpins this team. The overall commitment to the club team, that can impede on class, work and other components of a college student’s life, has not stopped the drive to play football every Saturday.

“You don’t play football to look nice or to have all the luxuries, you play football because you love to play football,” said Fred Matthews, a defensive back.