Mercer to stagger scholarships over three years | Community Spirit
Next Wednesday is the big high school football signing day.
Mercer is going to be well represented in the mix as they negotiate their move into the Division One Southern Conference.
This is a big change for the Bears because last season, they didn't offer scholarships. We sat down with Head Coach Bobby Lamb as he explained why the program will go through some exciting and challenging times because of the transition.
Lamb has put a lot of travel miles in since Christmas.
He's getting ready to sign his first Southern Conference class.
That means the squad goes from non-scholarship to a Division One program.
But Lamb says at first the guys won't line up evenly against other conference schools in the way of scholarships.
"We are going to sign somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 young men in our first class," Lamb stated.
"You heard right, 25 full scholarships. It's a far cry from a full squad.
Lamb says the NCAA doesn't allow schools changing divisions to offer everyone a full ride.
"From an NCAA standpoint, 30 is the maximum number you can give per year because their scholarship numbers would just get out of whack," Lamb explained. "The bottom line is not only do we have to sign 30-35 this year, then we've got to have more money for next year and the following year."
So has Lamb laid out his vision to high school seniors. One of his big selling points is immediate playing time.
"In most cases, in my last job, we red-shirted 90 to 95 percent of our players," Lamb recalled. "However, in our situation here, these young men have got to come in and play, and the experience of playing that first year is second to none. And you might take some growing pains playing a bunch of freshmen, but down the road, it will pay off."
But first, Lamb has some tough decisions to make on the guys that signed on to play when Mercer was a non-scholarship program.
Lamb says he will reserve and split ten scholarships in addition to the 25 to divide up among his top guys and the guys who perform well this spring.
"We are withholding this money until spring practice is over because we want it to be very competitive. After spring practice, we will decide who receives scholarship money, and we will have some tough conversations, but the bottom line is we are giving every kid an opportunity on that field to prove themselves," Lamb said.