Montgomery, Ala.—Huntingdon College President J. Cameron West announced at a news conference held on campus today that the College will add men's lacrosse and women's track and field to the list of intercollegiate athletic teams offered by the College. The programs will begin in the 2011–2012 academic year. West said he anticipates women's lacrosse and men's track and field will follow in the 2012–2013 academic year. The College's athletic program is a member of the NCAA-Division III and offers women's basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball; and men's baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, and tennis.
"After looking at a number of possibilities, we chose these two sports to grow our athletic offerings further," said West. "Like most Division III schools, our student body is highly participatory, meaning that most of our students are involved in one or more activities they are passionate about outside their majors--whether in athletics, arts, leadership, service, ministries, or other opportunities. Statistically, lacrosse and track will bring in new groups of students who are passionate about participating in those sports, but who are also well-prepared academically. We have found that Division III student-athletes are focused both on the field, court, or course and in the classroom. Those are the types of students who do well at Huntingdon."
Athletic Director Buzz Phillips added that the sport of lacrosse is showing growing popularity in Alabama, and track and field is a natural extension of the athletic program, which added cross country two years ago and has already garnered conference championships on both the men's and women's sides of the sport. "Both teams will be independent. There are about 20 colleges and universities within comfortable driving distance against whom we could compete in lacrosse, and about 30 sponsored track and field meets offered in the region," said Phillips. "There are eight high schools that offer men's lacrosse in Alabama, but the sport has shown an explosion of interest and popularity in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina." Huntingdon will be one of only two colleges in the state to offer intercollegiate lacrosse. Lacrosse is a spring sport, while track and field's season is from January to May.
Phillips introduced Andrew Carey, a native of Salisbury, Maryland, and a graduate of Greensboro College (N.C.), as head coach of the new men's lacrosse team. Carey has most recently served as assistant coach for Greensboro College. "Given the year-round warm weather, the beautiful campus, the caliber of the Huntingdon academic program, the College's placement rates, and the growing popularity of lacrosse in the South, I am confident that we can recruit a strong team of men who will come to Huntingdon not only from the Southeast, but also from the Northeast and East Coast regions, where lacrosse is particularly popular," said Carey.
Huntingdon's men's and women's cross country coach, Nate Rucker, will also coach the track and field program, said Phillips. Rucker was selected as Coach of the Year for cross country in the Great South Athletic Conference last year, and has led two teams to conference championships in the programs' young history. "I look forward to building this program from the field up, so to speak," said Rucker. "I feel lucky to have been able to build the cross country program and to see such success so early in the sport's life at Huntingdon. I am asked about whether the College has a track and field program all the time when I'm out recruiting—I'm glad I'll finally be able to say yes."
West said the College is exploring options for partnerships as well as funding to build facilities to accommodate the new sports. "All options are being explored right now. We know of good facilities already available in the area, and have also formed a special committee of the Board of Trustees to explore this matter and other matters related to future growth in both the athletic and academic programs of the College. This is a particularly exciting time to be at Huntingdon College."
Huntingdon has experienced unprecedented growth in the student population in recent years. Since 2002, overall enrollment has grown by more than 50%. During the past eight years, the College has reinstituted academic majors in accounting, elementary education, religion, Christian education, physical education, music education, and biology education, and added a major in youth ministry and a worship leadership concentration in the music major. In addition to men's and women's cross country, the College has added football, men's tennis, and women's golf, as well as marching band, jazz band, pep band, concert band, and a dance team during the same time period. The growth has enabled the College to operate with no tuition increases for the past two years.
Grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, Huntingdon is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Founded in 1854, Huntingdon is a coeducational liberal arts college. The College offers The Huntingdon Plan, components of which include laptop computers provided for full-time students, theirs to keep at graduation; travel-study, internships, and service learning opportunities; an environment of small classes and personal attention to students’ needs; and a broad-based liberal arts curriculum that prepares students to enter multiple career paths. Placement rates into graduate and professional schools well exceed national averages.