UIS to add new athletic program

Cross Country as well Track and Field will start in Fall 2015

On Tuesday, Dec. 2, UIS Director of Athletics Kim Pate announced plans to create men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs, which are set to be implemented within the next two years. Men’s and women’s cross country, as well as women’s track and field will begin in Fall 2015, with the men’s track and field program beginning in 2016.

The athletic department is currently searching for a coach, whom they expect to hire before Jan. 31, 2015. The coach will in turn be tasked with recruiting and building teams for these programs, as well as scheduling competitive meets.

It is believed that the addition of these programs will allow the university a wider range of recruitment opportunities, as well as giving current students an opportunity that they might have otherwise missed. According to Pate, “In support of the university’s enrollment growth priority, as well as the athletic department’s strategic planning objectives, the athletic administration undertook consideration of sports sponsorship over the past couple of years, in consideration of sports that would enhance not only the campus but the community.”

The recruitment opportunities generated by the addition of these programs is larger than any sport besides football; in 2012-2013 the Federal High School Association published a report stating that track and field had the most female participants, as well as the second most male participants, behind football. Overall, 1,053,611 high school students nationwide participated in track and field, with another 463,569 students participating in cross country.

Track and field, as well as cross country, are also very popular sports within UIS’s athletic conference, the Great Lakes Valley Conference. UIS will be the 15th of 16 member schools to offer a women’s cross country program, the 14th to sponsor men’s cross country and the 13th to sponsor indoor and outdoor track and field.

Prior to adding the programs, UIS had been in the minority of all NCAA Division II schools. According to Pate, 93 percent of division II schools sponsor women’s cross country, 84 percent sponsor men’s cross country, 64 percent offer women’s track and field, and 57 percent have a men’s track and field program.

Pate believes that UIS athletics holds a unique position within Illinois, which both boosts recruitment opportunities and gives another reason for UIS to pursue these sports. “I also think that it’s very unique for us as the only NCAA Division II public university in the state of Illinois for us to be able to offer the opportunity for students in the state and the surrounding region to participate in cross country and track and field while pursuing a University of Illinois degree,” Pate explained