By Jason Hanes, Sports Information Director at Reinhardt University
WALESKA, Ga. – Reinhardt University Director of Athletics Bill Popp is pleased to announce that the athletic department at the university will begin sponsoring the sports of men's bowling, women's bowling, and men's wrestling. The teams could begin competing as early as the 2016-17 season.
"Obviously, there's a lot that has to be done in order for us to be ready to go by the upcoming year," said Popp. "We will be looking to hire coaches for the sports and have them in place by the end of February. There has to be a lot done in order for us to improve our facilities to house a wrestling team of 30 members. We have to improve our department infrastructure as well, from compliance to athletic training on down. If everything fell into place, we can start these sports in 2016-17, but if we need to take another year to make sure all of our ducks are in a row, we will launch in 2017-18."
The NAIA currently classifies men's bowling and women's bowling as emerging sports. According to the NAIA website (www.naia.org), 41 NAIA schools participate in men's bowling and women's bowling. Much like men's and women's lacrosse, men's bowling and women's bowling are both on track to be considered NAIA championship sports in the near future.
"We're lucky with bowling in that the United States Bowling Congress sponsors a collegiate division that we can join," said Popp. "The NAIA works in conjunction with the USBC and uses the USBC's tournaments as the NAIA Invitational Championship for the time being."
Reinhardt currently plans to join the Mid-South Conference for men's bowling, women's bowling, and men's wrestling, though if more schools in the Appalachian Athletic Conference - the primary home for RU's teams - start the sports, the AAC will again be an option. "A lot of the same teams that our football team competes against in the Mid-South also sponsor these sports, so we'll see some familiar schools along the way."
Wrestling is has been a championship sport at the NAIA level for many years, with 2016 marking the 59th NAIA national championship meet. "There is a great deal of tradition in the NAIA with the sport of wrestling," Popp said. "We also have a lot of schools that are in the area that also sponsor wrestling, so we will be in great shape for competition there as well."
The addition of the three new sports means that Reinhardt could soon top 500 student-athletes. "We have been so fortunate to have great leaders like [Reinhardt President] Dr. Kina Mallard and former president Dr. Thomas Isherwood," said Popp. "They are both people that see the value of athletics to a university and have fully supported our department along the way. Our Board of Trustees has been amazing as well, and this would not be possible without them."
The addition of the three sports now brings Reinhardt's total athletic offerings to 22. In the last three years, Reinhardt has added football, men's track & field, and women's track & field to the fold. In the 2014-15 season, RU's programs finished with a winning percentage of .614 and had 92 conference all-academic honorees.