BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University is looking to add women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
“At this present time, we are looking to bring two additional sports programs. We want to start with club and intramural soccer this spring. We will do more studies. This is how you grow your programs. You look and see if there is significant interest and enough to support,” said Lynn Thompson, B-CU’s athletics director.
Recertified two years ago
The expansion is part of the schools’ Division I status, which was recertified two years ago. It also relates to the NCAA Title IX rules that deal with equal opportunities for women in sports.
“We are expanding as part of our NCAA recertification. Every 10 years, we have to recertify. We submit a plan of action and we are judged on how we make progress on that plan with the goals set and implementation of those goals. Right now we need to expand women’s programs,” explained Thompson.
B-CU has more than 300 student athletes participating in 17 sports programs with eight men’s programs and nine for women.
“We are not trying to reach a number. We want to stay in relation to our demographics of male and female. It deals with sports, the number of participants and percentage of students male and female; you must accommodate the interests and abilities of the student body. At this point, we need to accommodate females,” Thompson explained.
No plans to add staff
With the expansion of programs, the school doesn’t expect to add athletic support staff.
Thompson commented, “We are where we need to be right now. Any sport expansion is with the one the school can comfortably afford to do.”
The athletic department sees its growth and expansion as a positive for the entire school.
“Athletics serves as ambassadors for the university. We compete at the Division I level, which brings a significant amount of media, publicity and visibility to our school. Our games and scores can be seen on ESPN.” Thompson added.
“This attracts value and interest to our entire university. As programs grow and succeed, the school becomes attractive. We have taken advantage with successful programs. The facilities being created now are long overdue.’’
Upgrading practice field
The school is currently upgrading its football practice field and adding track and field components to it.
“We are putting in new grass, which has been needed for a while. That field is a prime location for a soccer program as well. We are constructing a straight away track with high jump, pole vault, and long jump pits for track,” Thompson said.
The venture could save the school money with its track and field program.
“At present we rent out Mainland High School’s track. This is a huge step towards making sure that as many of our teams as possible are using on field campus facilities,” added Thompson.
B-CU also rents other local venues for its athletics. The baseball team practices at Bethune Point and plays at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The softball team practices and plays at Sunnyland Park and football plays at Municipal Stadium.
Athletic training facility
The school also plans to build a football practice field at the site of the new Larry Handfield Athletic training facility located at International Speedway Boulevard and Lincoln Street. It’s scheduled to open in September.
Right now there is a standstill between residents, city officials and the school on that field.
“We are currently engaging the community through a campus committee which is exchanging information. We still have to go before the Midtown Redevelopment Board, possible Redevelopment Board and later the city commission. We will continue to engage the community. Our new president, Dr. Jackson, is very involved and he is very big on that. We will definitely reach out to the citizens.” Thompson noted.
Any expansions to the school’s athletic programs and athletic facilities will be in accordance with the university’s strategic plan.
Thompson emphasized, “There are so many needs campus wide from residence halls, classrooms, a new gymnasium/arena and more. Our school’s leadership will prioritize all of our school’s needs. We don’t want to put athletic needs in front.
“Our needs are the university’s needs. I think eventually as part of our school’s plans some of these things will come unfold. All timelines will come from our president and Board of Trustees. Our department will provide them with our input.”