SMC to add basketball, volleyball, wrestling for fall 2022

DOWAGIAC — In keeping with its ongoing mission of providing the total college life experience, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees, during its regular meeting on May 12, unanimously authorized the SMC administration to revive four additional intercollegiate sports for fall 2022: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s wrestling.

In the summer of 2020, SMC announced that after a 25-year hiatus, it had revived its men’s and women’s cross country programs. The college has been signing runners, momentum is building, and excitement is in the air for the return of competition this fall.

SMC’s performance in cross country is legendary, with five team national championships, three individual national champions, and 41 All-Americans, but the college also has a rich legacy in other sports, including 11 volleyball All-Americans, four basketball All-Americans, a two-time wrestling All-American and a Women’s Basketball Division II team national championship.

The college will immediately apply to expand its participation in the National Junior College Athletic Association, plus apply for reinstatement to the Michigan Community College Athletic Association, and renew rivalries with the five other nearby colleges that all currently provide athletics.

“Building a robust athletics program will help SMC and the college district in so many ways,” said Dr. Joe Odenwald in his president’s report. “First, we will boost enrollment by attracting high school graduates who in the past have looked beyond SMC since we lacked intercollegiate athletics. This move will improve occupancy rates in our modern residence halls, create more evening and weekend activities for the campus community and provide opportunities to involve other students beyond the athletes by showcasing a dance team, a pep band, and vocalists singing the National Anthem. Athletics will energize our Sports Management major by providing numerous immersive experiences for students right here on campus and develop a platform to potentially launch physical therapy, sports medicine or other health degrees at SMC.

“More broadly, athletics will draw visitors to games, meets, tournaments and summer camps to patronize local businesses throughout the year and to welcome back hundreds of alumni who participated in these activities years ago. It just creates so many connections back to the current community and from our past to our future. Lastly, everyone should appreciate that it is due to the hard work, dedication and stewardship by this board and my predecessors, including Dr. David Mathews most recently, that this is now possible for all of us.”

Coaches and community members expressed their support of the project.

“This is entrepreneurial thinking. It is about bringing in spectators and teams to our community, for single games and hopefully tourneys. They will need to eat coming or going, maybe fuel up,” said Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons. “Plus, the potential for summer camps and large groups being here for several days in a stretch. This has the potential to be a win for the College, our community, and the entire county.”

Chad Gardner, athletic director for Cassopolis Public Schools, agreed.

“I feel investing in our community and bringing sports back to SMC is one of the best things that has happened to our area in quite some time.  This will encourage more students to stay in our community to seek further education and continue their athletic careers.  This is a very exciting time to live in Southwest Michigan,” he said.

To meet one of its core values of high quality in all that the college does, SMC will need to enhance and expand gymnasium facilities to better accommodate team sports.

“At SMC, we understand that maintaining the College facilities at a high level is the best value for taxpayers while doing so without requesting additional millages,” Board Chairman Tom Jerdon said. “For example, after updating almost all of our academic buildings since 2015, we are investing another $500,000 this summer to modernize and expand the Niles Campus chemistry labs. As we expand intercollegiate athletics, we are first going to make responsible use of the existing Charles O. Zollar Building for indoor sports with some strategic refurbishment.”

Major elements of the Zollar project will include:

  • Replacement of the original gymnasium floor – which was installed in the 1970s and has reached the end of its useful life – with a new high-grade basketball and volleyball floor
  • Replacement of the original bleachers with a new system that will meet current Americans with Disability Act requirements and provide better comfort and accessibility for fans of all ages
  • Cleaning and painting of the gymnasium ceiling and walls
  • Installation of energy-efficient LED overhead lights
  • Installation of protective padding on both ends of the court to help prevent impact injuries
  • Installation of a new video scoreboard and audio system
  • Construction of new state-of-the-art men’s and women’s locker rooms for the home teams
  • Reconfiguration of the existing men’s and women’s locker rooms for visiting teams
  • Addition of two Officials’ Rooms
  • Addition of a family-friendly restroom for fans
  • Construction of “The Nest,” a second-floor suite of coaches’ offices and gathering area, with a glass wall overlooking the court, suitable for receptions, recruiting or donor events and premium viewing experiences.

The project is expected to cost from $1.8 to $2 million, with the majority coming from the college’s existing Building and Site Fund. Administration plans to raise the balance from naming rights and private donations. Construction will begin in December 2021 and is expected to be completed by July 2022.  A sample of architectural renderings of the project, created by Abonmarche’s South Bend office, are available to view at swmich.edu, and details of a capital fundraising campaign for athletics facilities will be forthcoming.

Students interested in competing at SMC starting in fall 2022 should watch the college’s athletics social media channels and web site for coaching announcements and recruiting information.

 

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