UCCS will expand its intercollegiate athletic program as a way of attracting top students and providing more on-campus student life activities.
Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak announced plans to add a baseball team, a women’s lacrosse team and expand track and field offerings for both men and women during meetings with deans, directors and department chairs. Previously, she briefed members of the CU Board of Regents.
Shockley-Zalabak said student leaders encouraged athletic expansion as a way of providing more on-campus student life activities.
“We are losing good students to schools that have these programs,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “UCCS student-athletes have higher GPA’s than the campus average and graduate at a higher rate. We need more students who perform at this level.”
UCCS student-athletes have compiled 22 consecutive semesters of cumulative GPAs in excess of 3.0, according to Steve Kirkham, athletic director. Kirkham estimated 150 students who likely otherwise would not attend UCCS will participate in the new programs. Planning for the programs is moving forward, including the hiring of a new track coach. With the support of the Regents, efforts will move more quickly with the goal of each sport fielding teams for the 2017 seasons.
“We are excited about the potential to partner with members of the community to expand the athletic opportunities for students,” Kirkham said. “Athletics will continue its tradition of placing an emphasis on a student’s ability to perform both in the classroom and on the field.”
Baseball and women’s lacrosse will both compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. UCCS will become the RMAC’s ninth baseball institution and the eighth women’s lacrosse school. Students who compete in Division II receive partial scholarships. Funding models for the programs will put the teams near the top of the conference in scholarship and operating budgets and also call for additional faculty salary lines.
Tony Ensor, president and CEO, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, spoke to the Regents about his enthusiasm for UCCS plans calling Colorado Springs “a baseball town.”
Women’s lacrosse will play and practice at Mountain Lion Stadium. Track and field will use facilities in coordination with area high schools before a planned on-campus facility is constructed.
UCCS currently offers 14 intercollegiate sports. UCCS first offered athletics in 1986 and joined NCAA Division II and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1996. The Mountain Lions have won 16 conference championships and student-athletes have earned 59 All-America and seven Academic All-America honors.