Around the country fall Saturday afternoons around the country are known for marching bands, tailgates and college football. Although Loyola does not offer a Division I football program, the club football team offers an opportunity for students to get their football fix.
The club football program regrouped five years ago, but Loyola had been without a football team since 1930, after the university cut funding for its varsity program. The club team receives funding through benefactors and about $300 in dues per players. With a 30-man roster, the team is ranked No. 12 out of 25 teams in the National Club Football Association (NCFA), and competes in the Great Lakes West Conference along with Michigan State University, Robert Morris University – Peoria and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Loyola Academy’s football field in Wilmette, Illinois, serves as the Ramblers’ home field.
Head coach Connor Gomer, a former club football player who graduated from Loyola in 2015, said that like his current players, he didn’t factor being a sports fan into his college decision-making process.
“[The players] are not huge college football fans across the board,” said Gomer. “All of them are crazy about football one way or the other, but not enough to go to a school that isn’t right academically.”
First-year linebacker and journalism major Adam Klepp said he valued academics over sports when choosing which university to attend, but he said he does feel like he made a compromise by coming to Loyola.
“I know I gave up the sports scene by coming here,” said the Birmingham, Michigan, native. “I feel like people who go to Loyola care more about academics and didn’t just choose the school for a team. That’s a type of environment I want to be in.”
The team practices for about six hours a week, according to team members. While club football does not hold nearly the same time commitment as a Division I team, it goes beyond just throwing, passing and rushing a football, according to first-year offensive lineman Seth Sizemore.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be playing D1 in college,” said Sizemore, an accounting and finance double major. “Club football gives me something to do on the weekends and lets me meet people.”
Gomer said being a part of Loyola’s club team when he attended the university was one of the best experiences he had in college. Gomer said he wants to share that great experience with not only the players, but also the fans. Fan turnout is fairly minimal, according to team members.
“[I want fans] to know we’re here,” said Gomer. “A lot of people I speak with outside of the football program straight-up don’t know we have club football team. That’s frustrating as a coach and someone who wants fans to come out and watch. Come check us out.”
The Ramblers hold a 2-2 overall record this season. The team is schedule to take on Robert Morris University in conference play on Nov. 5. Then, in its final game of the season on Nov. 12, the team is expected to play Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. If the Ramblers advance to the playoffs, the first playoff game will take place on Nov. 19 in Salem, Virginia, against the North Atlantic Conference champions.