For years at the University of Indianapolis, there have been students interested in athletics, with many different Registered Student Organizations, such as UIndy Water Polo, Ultimate Frisbee and Dance Team, that all give students the opportunity to compete. Now, UIndy Athletics has announced a new club sports initiative as an addition to their varsity lineup, with the goal of helping to advance those opportunities, according to the new head of the program Associate Vice President for Athletics & Campus Wellness Bob Brubeck.
The club sports initiative has been talked about since the arrival of University President Robert Manuel in 2012, Brubeck said. Brubeck was chosen to lead the program due to his previous role within facilities management for athletics. He said that this new program seeks to enhance the university on top of the already established high-level athletics programs at the university.
“The overall mission is that we already have a great Division II athletics program, we are at the absolute upper echelon of NCAA Division 2 sports, especially in the private school,” Brubeck said. “So, we believe that there are kids out there that are still very athletic, but want to have other things outside of athletics that they’re able to do. That maybe, the constraints of being a student athlete and having practice six days a week and having your competitions and those types of things, maybe that’s not for everyone, but we can develop and implement a program where kids have a little bit more laxity to be a college kid and have their athletics.”
The new teams being introduced will be women’s wrestling, men’s and women’s powerlifting, men’s and women’s bowling and men’s volleyball, according to a UIndy press release. Alongside those new additions, five previously existing campus organizations; ultimate frisbee, water polo, tennis, cheerleading and dance, will all be brought on as club sports. According to Brubeck, the ideology behind the sports that were chosen lies in the facilities available and student interest.
“We already have a wrestling room that only really gets used from three to five so there’s an open practice time for a women’s wrestling program,” Brubeck said. “For men’s volleyball. We have two gyms. There’s this space for them to do that. For tennis we have a tennis dome, there’s a space for them to do that. Powerlifting, I also thought, was hugely beneficial because we were adding this new fitness center, of which I will be overseeing, and then we also have our weight room that could be used in the evenings or whatever.”
According to the Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Scott Young, being able to incorporate the already established organizations into this new program is incredibly beneficial to its early stages. He said it helps lay the framework for years to come.
“Starting with nothing makes it very challenging,” Young said. “But now we can start with something that’s pre-established
on campus and just kind of have something in place this year, as we prepare for 22 to 23.”
One of the sports that Brubeck looked to add alongside the line-up was esports. He said due to the monetary commitment that an esports program takes to establish, it is not possible at this moment. He said that it is something that will hopefully come in later years along with plenty of other club sports. He said that there will be a survey released by Athletics in order to gauge the student body’s interest.
“And I will say this part of the club sports will be to add more club sports in the future. This is just year one that we’re talking about. I would say by year three, I would hope to have at least several more,” Brubeck said. “I’ve spoken with USA archery, USA triathlon, there’s other clubs out there that are real possibilities, but we have to get these up and going first, so esports could very well be one of them in the future. It just is not one that we felt like financially made sense [in] year one.”
According to Young, another limiting factor when it came to esports was the amount of immediate competition within the sport. He said that as the program evolves and there are more teams added, the focus will be on feasibility when it comes to acquiring students.
“I don’t think that’s a guarantee either because like I said, the market’s getting pretty saturated when it comes to esports,” Young said. “So we’re gonna look for things that we can get a little bit on the front end of and not so much, chasing everybody else.”
One of the biggest advantages to this new program, according to Brubeck, is the funding and other resources that these clubs will have. The new teams will receive increased budgets for uniforms, equipment and other necessities. For the already present teams, such as cheerleading, the funding will help revitalize the program with new equipment, according to Head Cheerleading Coach Tessa Wolsiffer. She said that one of the first priorities is replacing their game day cheer tools.
“We have had the same signs and the same flags and the same mats for years. I’ve been at the university for a long time…,” Wolsiffer said. “I just think that that’s going to provide us with a great opportunity to purchase new equipment, and purchase some of the things that we’ve held on to forever.”
Alongside the additional funding for the teams, they will also be introducing scholarships for the students on the teams, according to Brubeck. He said that while they will not be full-ride scholarships, they will be beneficial to those in these programs. According to Young, this program and the opportunity for scholarships is going to be a tremendous asset for UIndy. He said that this program has the potential to help separate UIndy from its competitors when it comes to recruiting students.
“I think that if we can grow this down the road, I think this can be a real asset to A) the university B) the club sports program and C) the athletic department in general,” Young said. “I think this can really benefit a whole lot of people on campus. If we can really get this going and done right, which is why I was willing to house it in athletics, because I think if you want to create something that’s similar to NCAA athletics, then it probably needs to be run by people that run NCAA athletics.”
Alongside the offering of scholarships, the ability to recruit high schoolers to come to UIndy for this program will be a new opportunity. Wolsiffer said that Brubeck is going to be helping the team set up a recruitment program that will link high school students that have shown interest in, or been accepted to UIndy with the team.
“So it links those two things together, and then it gives us their contact information so that we can reach out to them, and invite them to a clinic, invite them to a game, [and] invite them for a campus visit,” Wolsiffer said. “And then that will allow us then to make that connection and start to build that relationship and hopefully, get them to want to participate and try out for our team.”
According to Brubeck, they are currently in the process of hiring coaches and other staff members in athletics to support the new teams. He said that a goal is for club sports with varsity equivalents such as women’s wrestling for the varsity coaches to help with the hiring process.
“I think that I will certainly be leaning on Jason [Warthan], because he knows wrestling and I want those coaches to work well together,” Brubeck said. “That when we’re doing the hiring process that they would be involved. I don’t want it to be… I would like to have them help sign off on it before we bring them in. So, similar with volleyball and tennis.” Since the sports being introduced are not of the varsity level, they will not be subjected to NCAA rules and regulations, according to Young. He said that for some, such as bowling and powerlifting, there are other governing bodies that they will have to comply with, such as the United States Bowling Congress for bowling.
Brubeck said that early on in the process, identifying the sports that would be successful in this program has been one of the largest challenges, as well as getting the word out about the new program. He said early next year, the coaches will be hosting recruitment meetings for current students to have opportunities to join the teams. He said that the coaches are going to be the deciding factor in who makes the teams and who does not. Brubeck said he is very excited to see this program start.
“The excitement is to be able to recruit new people to the institution and show them how great of spaces we have opportunities, and things that we have here at the university,” Brubeck said. “I think it’s a chance to highlight the university quite a bit. And I’m excited for the potential students or incoming students to be able to compete and we can show off how great we are.”