New endowment to bolster out-of-state pursuit of football players

The Franklin College football program has won plenty of games during Mike Leonard’s 14 seasons as head coach.

Leonard plans to start spreading the word about that success a little bit more.

Along with his brothers, Mark and Dave, the Grizzlies coach recently established an endowment in the name of their parents with the aim of expanding the program’s recruiting reach.

“We’ve got one of the best-kept secrets that we don’t want to keep a secret,” Mike Leonard said.

The George E. and Anna K. Leonard Family Endowed Fund at Franklin College will bolster the football program’s recruiting budget and enable the Grizzlies to diversify the squad.

By bolstering their efforts in the neighboring states of Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan while also making more of a push into talent-rich Florida, the Grizzlies are confident that they can create a greater diversity — not just within the football program but the student body as a whole.

“The college likes to get a geographic mix of students,” Leonard said. “It’s nice to be able to tell guys from Indiana, ‘Hey, you’re going to meet guys from all over the country.’”

Of the 95 players listed on Franklin’s 2017 football roster, all but six hail from Indiana. The Grizzlies have three players from Ohio, two from Kentucky and one from Illinois.

A team with that few out-of-state players is a bit of an outlier — the Grizzlies just graduated three seniors from the state of Florida — but Leonard would like to have a more consistent mix.

That means hitting the road and recruiting, though — and expanding the geographic reach isn’t cheap. That’s where the endowment comes in.

The hope is that the initial investment of $50,000 will produce enough dividend income each year to fund an annual recruiting trip to Florida for Leonard and assistant head coach Steve Rock, both of whom have some existing connections with high school coaches in the Fort Lauderdale area.

“In general, a college like Franklin can do really well within a three-hour radius,” Leonard said. “It takes some work to get somebody outside of three hours. That’s what the endowment can help with.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.