By Alex Billington & Maxime Devillaz
Assistant Sports Editors
In Fall 2014, LIU Post will add five new sports to its Athletic department — an expansion to move the Pioneers Athletic program forward. Currently, the Pioneer sports program consists of 15 teams, which have enjoyed success in both the East Coast Conference Championships and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships every season, with the Women’s Lacrosse team winning the NCAA Championship back-to-back.
With the support of University President Dr. Kimberly Cline, Bryan Collins, athletic director, is at the helm of this development. “President Cline had a view to move forward with the Athletic Department, so I began lots of research into finding out how we can make our athletic program excel if we add new sports,” Collins said.
Programs don’t want to add new sports if it comes at the expense of current sports, and with Post’s already successful program, there have been obvious murmurs around campus of slight concerns that the current sports may be affected. These rumors are not unjust as there were financial cuts of 30 percent last year. “We didn’t let those [budget cuts] affect our teams, but we tried to cut that 30 percent administratively. We are not touching any money from our present teams,” Collins said.
“I believe they will attract more people to look at us in a different way. Our regular programs and sports programs are getting more robust, and that will make our education more valuable as we go forward,” Cline said.
Cline is a big advocate of sports teams. She believes they are a key ingredient for a vigorous campus life, and that adding five new sports will improve LIU Post’s reputation as a forwardly-thinking, capable learning institution.
Bringing in new sports into the same facility does bring challenges, but Collins and his staff hope to build the correct infrastructure to accompany the introduction of approximately 75 to 85 student athletes, including 18 to 25 students for Men’s Wrestling, eight to 12 students for Women’s Golf, nine to 12 students for Women’s Fencing, and 35 to 45 men and women for Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field (including cross country athletes who can double up).
“We do have concerns about locker room allocation,” Collins said, as he began to unfold the various solutions to the challenges presented by new sports teams and new student athletes on campus, such as limited space, funds, and accessibility of trainers.
The new Men’s Wrestling team involves the most planning, and Collins’ solution incorporates an old weight room, currently used for storage in Riggs Hall, a campus dormitory. “In the basement, there used to be a workout room; we think with a bit of work, we can clean it up. It will cost a little bit of money, but we have funds available from our alumni for that renovation, so they can practice and have a locker room area there,” Collins said.
According to Collins, Women’s Fencing, “really doesn’t need a locker room.” Instead, he suggested they, “change in the general locker room area within Pratt, and practice in the multi-purpose room in the evening.”
Men’s and Women’s Cross Country are currently situated in large locker rooms capable of fitting 30 athletes in each. Since there are small rosters for Track & Field, they can share that locker room with the Cross Country teams. Collins described this as a “good fit” since many of the Cross Country athletes are set to be dual-sport athletes, competing in both Cross Country as well as Track & Field, in many of the long distance events that cross over.
Collins has a simple solution for the new golf team. “They will be golfing off campus, so they do not require a locker room on campus.” The golf courses, which the Pioneer Golfers will be using, are the Glen Cove Golf Course and the Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course.
Athletic trainer care is vital for student athletes who push their bodies to the limit every day. The LIU Post Pioneers currently have access to four full-time trainers and one graduate assistant. Most teams travel with a trainer to almost every match, meet, or game, ensuring that care is available before, during, and after contests.
“Health and safety is paramount for us,” Collins said, as he delved into the athletic trainer portion of the infrastructure required to support the new sports. “We are hiring one other full-time trainer to assist in the winter, and trying to keep the graduate assistant position filled. We have already observed a candidate to replace Tara [Humphreys, the current graduate assistant].”
Although there will be 75 to 85 new athletes and only one new, full-time trainer, Collins is positive that it will work out. “Some of these sports don’t have the injury types as some of the other sports, such as soccer or football, where the big injuries occur, so although the athletes will still be serviced on campus, we feel that the Golf team doesn’t have to travel with a trainer,” he said. “Depending how the enrollment is for the new sports, and if it is increasing, then the President ensured we can hire another athletic trainer in January.”
Adding new sports is one of the requirements when making a transition from a Division II, to a Division I athletics program. However, “The conversation may be on the table down the road, but I think right now we have a strong Division II program, and there are no immediate plans to do that, but I would never say never,” Cline said.
Collins stated that becoming a Division I program is, “A university vision, a strategic plan, which is easier said than done. There has to be a vision, as there are different dynamics necessary: full time coaches, facilities, and basic infrastructure to support it.”
LIU Brooklyn is already a Division I program, which Collins talked about as a possible obstacle on the hypothetical road to becoming a Division I program. “There are challenges of being LIU and having two D1 programs, one in Brooklyn and one in Brookville. I’m not sure we can have two different D1 programs competing against each other in this area, so I think some decisions would have to be made.”
For now, Collins and Cline share a view on developing as both an athletic program and a learning institution. “We are going to be the very best D2-school we can be so that if the administration decides to move in that direction we can have a smooth transition to that level.”