Louisiana coach Billy Napier announced Wednesday that every scholarship member of the football program will now be encouraged to make a donation of at least $50 to the Ragin' Cajun Athletic Fund (RCAF), according to The Advocate. It was initially reported that players would be required to make donations with it being optional for walk-ons.
"That's probably a little bit unheard of and a little bit unique, but I think this is a place where that would be appreciated," Napier said. "I think it's part of the type of program that we want to have. We want our players to be educated and understand the benefits that come with being a student-athlete and that is not something that should be taken lightly -- the effort and time and investment that the people that support athletes at UL have put in into this program."
Napier also stressed to ESPN.com that it's OK if a player on the team doesn't want to donate, whether by choice or circumstance.
"If [the players] can't afford to come up with $50 or don't want to join for any reason, they know they can come to me privately and there's not a problem," Napier said. "I get that people independent of football and independent of our program might not agree with it, and that's fine."
Earlier Friday the university clarified the coach's policy to FootballScoop.com after the initial story said it would be a "requirement" of all players.
"The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Department of Athletics is thrilled that head coach Billy Napier's football program and its student-athletes expressed their collective desire to give back and show gratitude to the Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation," assistant AD for communications Patrick Crawford told FootballScoop. "Members of the football program have started an initiative to demonstrate their appreciation to the RCAF, including its board of directors, staff and investors, when they are able to do so. Additionally, student-athletes will be encouraged to join the RCAF at the introductory level during their college careers, an initiative the program and its coaching staff supports in order to give back to the foundation that has done so much to support the Louisiana Football team and the Department of Athletics."
The program is designed to lay the foundation of what Napier hopes is a long-term relationship with the athletic department.
"We're trying to create a scenario where five or 10 years from now these are guys who will give back and continue to be a part of the program and realize what this place did for them," he said. "I think we got that message across this morning and certainly that was a good thing."
This is unorthodox in college athletics considering players are only compensated via scholarships that include housing, training, medical care and other benefits associated with being on a full ride. Players also receive stipends for the full cost of attendance. That's more than enough for Napier.
"It's all about gratitude," he said.
The RCAF is designed to provide funding for many of the benefits associated with being a student athlete including the full cost of attendance, nutrition programs, recruiting budget, staff infrastructure, travel costs, facility improvements and overall student-athlete well-being.
Louisiana opens the 2019 season on Aug. 31 vs. Mississippi State in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.