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Rockford College uses football to try to balance enrollment

Friday, November 12, 2010  
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By Doug Goodman
Posted Nov 12, 2010 @ 09:13 PM
Last update Nov 12, 2010 @ 09:23 PM

Brent Alexander’s football career appeared to be over after graduating from tiny LeRoy High School.

The two-time all-conference linebacker, who once had 33 tackles in a game, was thinking about entering the working world.

"Probably in a union, working construction,” he said.

Alexander considered a couple of small college football programs but wanted to play right away.

"I didn’t want to sit around for two years,” he said.

Rockford College gave him the chance to play right away, and four years later Alexander is wrapping up his career.

"I knew if I didn’t play football I probably wouldn’t have made it through four years of college,” said Alexander, who is majoring in business administration. "I probably would not have stuck it out.”

Alexander and his teammates are important to Rockford College, too, and not just for what they do on the field.

The football program was started in 2000 as a way to increase the number of male students on campus. The student population was 1,100 in 1999, and just 28.4 percent were males. The following fall the football program brought 73 players to the campus, and the percentage of males rose to 35 percent.

This year’s team has 59 players, and the male percentage of the total population is 38 percent.

"We are trying to get to 80 players,” said interim head coach Patrick Babcock, whose team is 0-9 this season. "That would help us be more competitive in conference on a consistent basis, and provide us with some depth that we lacked this year. We have lost 15 players to injuries and nine key guys.”

Like all Division 3 schools, Rockford College doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, so the football coaches stress the school’s strong points to high school recruits.

"First and foremost, we tell them they will have a great experience and a great education, and there are plenty of great things around campus,” Babcock said.

"We are one of those campuses that is fortunate to have a small feel but still be located in a larger city, so you aren’t out there in the country where it is just you and the cows.”

The recruiting effort focuses on northern Illinois and the Chicago area, but this year’s roster also included eight out-of-state players.

"We try to bring in a high-quality person,” Babcock said. "We are looking to bring in guys who you can count on and trust, and do the right thing when you are not looking. Those are the main factors we are looking for first.”

The program has compiled a 48-60 record under four coaches and in three different conferences during its years. The Regents were 7-3 each year from 2003 to 2007, but have fallen on hard times in recent years after joining the Northern Athletics Conference.

But the football program’s future is not in jeopardy, according to interim athletic director Kristyn King, who said the number of victories isn’t the bottom line at the college.

"Success is based upon the number of student/athletes we bring to the institution, the academic successes they can accomplish here, and if they represent the institution well out in the community,” she said.

"Every sport will have its ups and downs, but that doesn’t mean those student/athletes are not having a great experience. ... The (football) program has had some growing pains but it has been well worth it.”

Senior running back Jason Hosey of Chicago Prosser has been frustrated by the lack of team success on the field, but sees the benefits of his time at the school.

"The most important part is you are getting an education,” he said. "You can’t play football forever. You need something else, and we are getting that something else here.”

Reporter Doug Goodman can be reached at 815-987-1386 or

This story appeared at on November 12, 2010.

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