Autumn is the favorite time of year for many people, bringing out some of the best in American traditions and folklore. It’s the time of year when the holidays slowly creep into our thoughts; when pumpkin pie and apple cider is plentiful; turkey, squash and all manner of food is enjoyed seemingly only for a few months until the following year; when ghost stories and old legends start cropping up again, and family comes together as the wind gets colder. But for many, it’s considered the best time of year for one simple reason; football.
Indeed die hard fans from all over the country will warm up their newly purchased hi-def television, bought specifically to watch the game on, and sit glued to a chair until the end of January while cursing at the guy in their fantasy football league who has kept hold of Tom Brady for the last five years. Others will find time to make it to the field at 8AM on a Saturday morning to tailgate with friends and family before watching their Alma Mater lose to their oldest rival for the seventh consecutive time. Tradition is the name of the game, whether college or professional, but nowhere in Dayton has that particular tradition been missing more, than at Wright State University.
For years there have been a number of rumors and reasons given as to why one was never established. Whatever that reason may be however, action was finally taken with a help of a student government initiative that was headed by former student government president Mohammad “Moody” Kassem. As a result, an established club football team is playing its first season for Wright State.
Vice President for the team, Steve Jones discussed how the team was established; explaining that there had been previous attempts to create a club team before, most notably back in the 80s. “It was really just a lot of talk back then, as far as I know, but there wasn’t any real action taken. Moody and Eric Corbitt were the ones who did all the initial work and started creating the program this time around.” The word was spread and as try outs started, more than 100 young men showed up to try and make the team. “We had a spring game,” says Jones, “and we did lose it, but at the time we were having some initial difficulties internally. For a number of reasons our head coach left, and it seemed that we might not have anyone to lead the team. A number of schools on our schedule dropped us for fear that we would disband before the season started, and it left us with only 5 scheduled games. We also didn’t have a permanent place to play home games. We had asked to play at Alumni Field, but Campus officials were concerned that the field would be ripped up too much. That might change in the future however; we’re still in talks with them.”
The difficulties subsided and a new head coach, Paul Grimes, took the reigns. Two more games were also added to the season at the last second, rounding out to a reasonable seven, and they opted to play at some local high school venues for their home games. The Raiders play in the Midwestern Club Football Conference, North Division with Marquette University and Ohio State University. The South Division includes Miami University, Xavier, The University of New Orleans and Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville. Wright State is enjoying a 5-0 start, and is the only undefeated team in the conference to date.
“This is an amazing group of guys,” says Jones, “There is chemistry between them that has led to this 5-0 start, and that includes the work of Coach Grimes. They are extremely dedicated, and they have to be. Nothing is given to them here because we don’t have the funds to provide it. Each player is expected to pay for their entire uniform, including helmets and pads, and that comes to about $425.00 a guy. We were very thankful that the Ohio National Guard has agreed to sponsor us, and most of that cost was taken care of, but there is no guarantee that that will happen again, and they know that. Honestly all the work I do for the team is because these guys are so great, so dedicated, and they deserve to be able to play. It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do so far.” When asked about how he hopes the team might evolve next year, he said, “Well, we have learned so much this year, we are going to be a lot better prepared when next season comes around. We’re still in talks to find a permanent home on campus, but also are working on increasing exposure and support. We’ve talked with the cheerleaders and dance teams to see if they would want to come out and perform at games, as well as the pep band, and just try to get some of the pageantry and help create a better atmosphere for both the fans and players.”
He also mentioned he’s already been approached by high school students wanting to learn more about the program. “Some of these guys are being scouted by some D-2 and D-3 schools, but they are coming to us and asking us if they can play here because just like those schools, we can’t offer scholarships to them, but it’s far cheaper to come to Wright State and play football than it is some of those other schools. It’s pretty exciting to know there is already that interest even though we haven’t finished a full season yet.”
The fledgling team has a long way to go, and though the first year has been shaky at times, there is no doubting the commitment and love for the game by all those involved. They have started an amazing season, and their victory this week has propelled them to the top of the conference.
The Raiders won at home last Saturday 31-14 versus the Miami Redhawks. Wright State Quarterback Nick Woley completed 17 of 30 passing attempts for 301 yards no interceptions, and one touchdown pass to Jovan Tolbert. Running back Stanley Frazier had a stellar day with 168 rushing yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. Ryan Johnson also returned an onside kick for a touchdown in the last quarter. The Raiders totaled 458 yards of offense while the defense limited the Redhawks to only 228 yards, and caused two fumbles and one interception for the night.
The Raiders will finish their season at home on November 15th against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game will be held at Bellbrook High School at 1pm, tickets are on sale for $5.00.
We will fight right and be true, So let’s go, fight, win. Let the action begin, We’re from W-S-U!