Another year, another poll — another projected championship for the Franklin College football team.
In what has become a veritable rite of passage, the Grizzlies have again been selected — by a vote of league coaches — the favorite to win the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
Winner of five straight HCAC titles and seven of the past eight, Franklin received five of nine first-place votes in the preseason poll released this week.
But league rivals aren’t the only ones paying poll homage to the Grizzlies.
Top 25 mainstays in recent years, the Grizzlies are ranked No. 23 in preseason polls by Lindy Sports and The Sporting News. They also received votes in the D3football.com preseason poll.
With so much preseason adulation, what does it all mean for Franklin?
Not much, if anything.
Camp doesn’t start until Aug. 16. The season doesn’t start until next month.
And nothing will be settled in the HCAC until a championship is officially won — or not won.
Consequently, polls mean little to the Grizzlies.
“It’s always great when you get picked as the league favorite, but I’m pretty confident that most coaches vote based on the previous year’s order of finish, so we don’t ever talk about preseason polls as a team,” said head coach Mike Leonard, who’s in his 13th season at Franklin.
“The thing I’ve learned in my experience as a coach is that we will not focus on winning a championship but rather focus on helping to turn each player of ours into a champion,” Leonard said. “It’s then amazing what can be accomplished when you have a team full of champions. Becoming a champion is a mindset.”
Franklin returns 16 starters — six on offense, eight on defense and two special teams players — from last year’s 8-3 team. The Grizzlies open the season Sept. 5 against Illinois Wesleyan.
Cashing in for charity
A little bit of star power in Franklin provided a huge boost for good causes.
Charity events Tuesday and Wednesday at The Legends Golf Club, highlighted by visits from PGA stars Tom Watson and Steve Stricker and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, raised more than $50,000 for the Little Red Door Cancer Agency, the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, the PGA Tour Wives Association and the Indiana Golf Foundation.
Fundraisers included Tuesday’s silent auction and “An Intimate Evening with Golf Legends,” which was a dinner and “fireside chat” with Watson, Stricker, Finchem and Golfweek senior writer Alex Miceli, and Wednesday’s Mulligan Open golf scramble.
The two-day festivities were in conjunction with a celebration of Ted Bishop’s tenure as 38th president of the PGA of America.
Bishop, the general manager and director of golf at The Legends, said the total raised for charity was “just north of $50,000.”
2015 HCAC PRESEASON FOOTBALL POLL
Projected finish (first-place votes);Team;Points
2;Mount St. Joseph (2);71