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Eric Peterson, Published February 04 2014

Dragons maintain focus on alumni recruiting in boosting scholarship dollars

Moorhead - In order to recruit the future, Minnesota State Moorhead head football coach Steve Laqua felt he had to recruit the past.

So he assigned each of the coaches on his staff a group of former MSUM football players to contact. Laqua set up a scoreboard in the coaching offices to track weekly interactions his staff made with former players.

“We needed to recruit the alumni to the program,” Laqua said. “We needed to recruit people who were going to be supportive. … It’s not asking people for money. It is telling the story.”

That story has seemed to resonate. Since Laqua was named MSUM head coach prior to the 2011 season, the scholarship dollars for the football team have nearly doubled.

The Dragons offered $257,600 for football this season, the equivalent of nearly 17 scholarships, according to information The Forum received through an open records request. Those numbers were $132,000 and 9.29 in 2011, which was Laqua’s first season.

“It has been fun to see the progress,” MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said. “I am confident that we will be at 20 (scholarships) next year.”

That means MSUM is projecting to be offering more than $300,000 for football scholarships next season to reach the 20 mark. The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference scholarship maximum for football is 28.

“Our external support has increased significantly,” Peters said.

The number of four-year commitments – a person pledging an annual dollar amount for four years – for football scholarships has grown by more than five times since 2011.

When Laqua took over, football had less than 20 four-year pledges. The program recently reached 100. Those yearly dollar amounts range from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars.

Most of those four-year commitments are from former players.

“It’s absolutely making a difference,” said Laqua, who will be starting his fourth season as head coach next fall. “Part of the plan was to steadily increase it, so we could build a good foundation.”

In the next three years, Laqua would like those four-year commitments to grow to 150.

MSUM is expected to sign 25 to 30 players today for national signing day, according to Laqua. He said the increase in scholarship dollars in recent seasons has led to MSUM getting earlier commitments and more talented players.

The recruiting success is starting to show on the field.

MSUM had a 4-7 record this past fall. That was the most wins in a season for the Dragons since 2007. All four of those wins came in the final six games of the season.

Peters has noticed more former players wanting to get involved. One example of that happened last spring. Peters said two former players from the 1980s came to campus and said it was time they got involved with the program again. They had been watching the progress the team had made under Laqua.

“The next step for us is to get to 24,” Laqua said. “I don’t think anyone wants to stay at 24 or stop at 24.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com