The Otterbein football team has a low number of players on its roster despite the efforts of players and coaches to recruit and retain new students.
Otterbein's average student retention rate is 81%, and its graduation rate is 61%. The undergraduate retention rate affects the university's athletics, as over 600 students participate in different sports.
The team currently has nearly 100 players on their roster, 76 of them being returning players. This means they have significantly less players when compared to other OAC teams like Mount Union and Heidelberg, who each have over 150 players on their rosters.
The recruitment process plays a big role in the team's goal to gain as many incoming players as possible, which contributes to the future success of the team. Recruiting classes can change the direction of a team, which is why it's so important to the players and the coaches. The coaches recruited 24 freshmen for the 2022 season, which is notably lower than last year's class of 88.
Many players are recruited through the efforts of assistant coaches, who set up visits and give them a view of what the university is like. Players who visit the university are more likely to commit than players who don't, as visits give the players and coaches an opportunity to become more comfortable with each other, which makes communication easier in the future.
“When I was recruited last year, I felt very welcomed by the coaches and was told about all the benefits like financial aid along with the different scholarships and that's what pushed me to come here,” Christian Pataky, a freshman business major, said.
Academic success also plays a part in athletics - if players don't meet the minimum GPA requirements, they can't participate. Some teams at Otterbein implement study tables to ensure academic success, but after last year, the football team no longer has them.
Junior sport management major Owen Bebie said, “I remember last year some of the guys mentioned study tables but I haven't heard anything about them this year.”
The benefits of merit-based scholarships also contribute to the retention rate, as they can help college be more affordable for students in precarious financial situations. Otterbein provides over 40 scholarships in different areas of studies or based on merit, which can range from $500 to $30,000 depending on the student's high school achievements, current study, and success at the university.