By Carter Ottele

BEAR– More than a dozen students claim they unknowingly joined the Grinnell football team by opening a cryptic email in their Outlook inbox. The students allege that when they clicked on the email, their names were automatically added to the Pioneers’ roster. 

For context, Grinnell football has struggled with enrollment in recent years. Although the team holds a glorious history—it placed third in the inaugural Super Bowl, and Tom Brady once called the Pioneers “the only team [he] was ever afraid of”—the team has been challenged by injuries and low participation. Following a 2019 defeat against Grinnell Middle School, the team decided to suspend the rest of the season and “reassess its priorities”. 

Since resuming play, the team has seen mixed results. Team leaders have repeatedly stressed, however, that boosting enrollment would push the team to the next level—or, as the team’s t-shirts say, to “level up”.

Mack Eroni ’26, one of the alleged victims of the email, says that the scam represents a clear attempt to expand the team’s lineup. 

“The team wants more people, and those of us who opened the email got selected,” said Eroni. “And now we’ve got an offseason scrimmage coming up against Iowa State…I’m 5’2, 115 pounds, and they’re putting me in as a left tackle.”

“It’s ridiculous,” agreed Talia Telly ’24. “I know nothing about football. And when I tried to quit the team, they threatened to hack my email and send porn links to my professors.”

On the other hand, Tony Riga expressed joy at the opportunity. “I’d always wanted to play for the team, but on account of my moral objection to wearing a helmet, the team refused me. Now, though, they seem to have given up,” said Riga.

The team’s coaches have vehemently denied the allegations.

“That’s absolute gobbledygook. I mean, total and complete poppycock,” swore Head Coach Zach Tucker (commonly known as ZT). “It would be extremely dangerous to take random people and put them in the place of trained athletes. Such balderdash sounds like the regretful imagination of someone who wanted to join the team but lacked the work ethic.”

ZT was equally insistent that students could leave whenever they wanted to. “Nobody’s forced to stay on the team,” he said. “I mean, sure, there are some consequences if you do. But life’s full of consequences, you know? Like, you forget to floss, and your teeth develop cavities. You show up late to work too often, and your boss doesn’t promote you. You quit the college football team, and we hack your account to destroy your personal, professional, and academic career. You’ve gotta learn to deal with consequences.”

The team practiced on Monday, and the disparity in skill was obvious. On one side of the field, experienced players ran intricate drills and wrestled shirtless on slip-and-slides. On the other side, newcomers learned about important concepts such as two-point conversions, the difference between cornerbacks and quarterbacks, and the four-stage progression of CTE.

Team captain Manny Caughty ’23 expressed ambivalence about the recruitment tactic. “Ok, yeah,” he admitted. “It’s highly illegal. But I think it’ll do a lot of good for the team in the long run.”

Caughty reminisced about the glory days of Grinnell football. “In the 1980 Olympics, the Pioneers overcame a seemingly invincible Soviet team to win the gold medal. It was so unbelievable, and so icy on the field, that the news media deemed it the ‘Miracle on Ice’. In 1992, we assembled maybe the greatest team ever and won gold against Croatia. The news media then called us the ‘Dream Team’. That’s what we’re trying to repeat. That’s what we have the potential to become.”