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UL head coach Billy Napier, left, talks to running backs T.J. Wisham (23) and Elijah Mitchell (15) during fall football practice at the Cajun Field on Wednesday. Napier said he's pleased with his team's approach so far this August camp.

UL football coach Billy Napier unveiled a new team initiative in his normal mid-week August camp press conference Wednesday.

[UPDATEUL walks back football coach Billy Napier's mandate that players donate to athletic fund]

Starting with the beginning of this school year, all scholarship UL football players will be encouraged to be a minimal level $50 member of the Ragin' Cajun Athletic Foundation. The move will be optional for walk-on members of the squad.

“It’s all about gratitude,” Napier said.

New RCAF executive director Lee De Leon addressed the team Wednesday morning, detailing the inner workings of the RCAF fundraising process and how it impacts the student-athlete experience.

“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 of the new team rule. “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 originally said joining the RCAF was required for scholarship players, but after the press conference UL assistant AD for communications and digital strategy Patrick Crawford issued the following statement to clarify that the initiative is not mandatory.

"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. 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."


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In addition to influencing the players’ perspective now, the athletic department is hoping the rule establishes a long-term bond with the university.

“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,” Napier said. “ I think we got that message across this morning and certainly that was a good thing.”

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.