It has been an interesting season for the Fort Valley State Wildcats.
A rough start has given way to a solid season, but the hopes of an SIAC championship are gone. But a seven-win season and a remote chance of making it to the NCAA Division II playoffs remain. The Wildcats meet Albany State at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Columbus to wrap up the regular season.
“I would say that we had a very rough start because when it was time to start practice, we did not have a trainer or a team doctor, and we missed a week-and-a-half of practice because of that,” FVSU head coach head coach Donald Pittman said. “It was very frustrating for us. Some of the players got a letter saying that they would not have scholarships in the fall, and we lost probably 10 players who would have been starters at the beginning of the season.
“We had to rally the troops, though, and I am very proud of the way we have been able to come together as a team. It has really been a very special season.”
Pittman said when he arrived at FVSU six years ago, he had 26 athletic scholarships to work with. Now, he said, that number has dwindled to 12. Most of those scholarships are divided between players, and only one football player this year is on a full football scholarship.
“That has made it very difficult to recruit, but I feel like most of the teams in the SIAC are going through the same thing,” Pittman said. “But when we play teams like Delta State with a full allotment of scholarships, it becomes even more difficult to compete.”
To make matters more difficult, Pittman has only two full-time coaches on staff, with the rest being volunteer assistants.
“We have been able to find some great football coaches who want the opportunity to succeed in this profession and are willing to come in as volunteer assistants,” Pittman said. “I honestly don’t know where we would be without them. They have been so important to our success this year, and what those guys have meant to this football team cannot be measured.
“But the negative part of having volunteer assistants is there is a good chance that some of them will move on to full-time coaching positions.”
Pittman, however, still believes that the future of the FVSU program is bright.
“I think that some of the scholarships will come back in the near future because of how successful we have been this year,” Pittman said. “People can look at how important football is at Fort Valley State, not only to the students here, but to the city of Fort Valley and to the alumni. We have accomplished a lot this year, even without a lot of scholarships and full-time coaches, and we have been able to compete with the bigger schools with full allotments, for the most part.
“With a little help, I think we can play with anyone and become a strong D-II program. But at this time of the year, all of that is behind us, and we are going to Columbus and try and beat a very good Albany State football team.”