Kickers Deserve Scholarships, Too

David Marsh Editorials

Most of the focus in football is placed on the star power positions like quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and standout defenders. As a result, in this new era of the transfer portal and NIL, most of the funds go to these star players. These are the players who make up the bulk of each school’s 85 scholarships.

There are three vital specialist positions that are mostly filled with walk-on players: kickers, punters and long snappers. In 2021, Oregon had three kickers on the roster (now only two as Henry Katleman has left Oregon), and of those three only Camden Lewis was on scholarship. For punters, Oregon has three on the team’s roster and only Tom Snee is receiving a scholarship. Of the three long snappers, none are on scholarship at this time. With scholarships at such a premium these days it is highly unlikely that any additional specialist on Oregon’s roster will receive a scholarship.

It is no wonder that Katleman, and other specialists like him, left their schools for the transfer portal in the hopes of finding a place to play on a scholarship. However, the success rate for specialists finding new homes with a scholarship is low because most teams shopping the transfer portal are not looking for kickers, especially those who want to be on scholarship.

These are thankless jobs, and fans only ever notice these positions when the players involved fail spectacularly in their execution.

How could Oregon and Washington fans forget the long snap that failed so badly it resulted in a safety that assured Oregon’s win in Seattle this year?

Kicking isn’t easy, especially from longer ranges with weird angles and the elements in the kicker’s face, and that is before the additional element of the opposing team looking to block the kick. Kickers train all the time to ensure they are consistent, but once you put them out in front of a crowd of thousands of people and the game on the line, there is not a heavier burden on the shoulders of any other position in football.

A good kick is a win and a missed kick is a loss, and the kicker has no control over where the ball will be located in terms of range or between the hashes. They just need to go out and kick the ball and score.

Even the quarterback, who is perhaps the most important position in all sports, is expected to make mistakes. No quarterback plays a perfect game and fans expect that the quarterback will make some bad plays. But when it comes to kickers, as fans we expect perfection. We expect them to make those kicks, and there aren’t going to be too many opportunities for them to kick the ball in a game, so they had better make the most of their opportunities and not miss.

Camden Lewis has struggled as a kicker during his Oregon career to date. His biggest moment came with a walk-off field goal against Washington State in 2019.

These athletes are paying to be a part of this team and only a small percentage of these specialists will even be considered to join an NFL team, so this is the pinnacle and end of their football careers. They work and train just as hard as any of the other players on the team and they deserve scholarships.

Now, it would be a complete non-starter for the NCAA to proclaim that a portion of the 85 scholarships must be devoted to kickers, punters and long snappers. There would be far too much pushback from pretty much every school at every level because programs are struggling with roster allocation as it is right now, especially with the addition of the transfer portal.

What should be done instead is to give each team an additional five scholarships, but these scholarships are solely for kickers, punters and long snappers and cannot be used in any other way. This would allow every school to give these specialists the scholarships they deserve while actually making roster management slightly easier. Just think, in Oregon’s case this would open up two more scholarships.

With so much money in college football these days, isn’t it time that we ensure the team’s specialists get scholarships for their work and effort?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By Eugene Johnson

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