Georgia Gwinnett College is ramping up to launch its new intercollegiate athletics program. The college plans to break ground on new athletic facilities this fall and begin competition in the fall of 2012.# With such a fast-tracked schedule, Gwinnett residents will soon see significant changes on the Lawrenceville campus.
Where a vast expanse of kudzu covers the large hillside just north of the college”s main entrance on Collins Hill Road, GGC officials are preparing to build a $12 million athletics complex. Plans call for soccer, track, baseball, softball and tennis facilities, as well as a practice field, to be built on the site in a step-like manner, taking advantage of the natural topography.
“The complex will provide an impressive sight at the front door of our campus,”# said Eddie Beauchamp, vice president for Facilities and Operations at GGC. “I”m sure the view will generate a lot of excitement within the community, and for students as well.”#
Jay Patel, president of the GGC Student Government Association agreed.
“I think students will really be excited to drive by and see the athletics facilities at the campus entrance,”# he said. “It will give the same effect as seeing Bobby Dodd Stadium from I-85 at Georgia Tech.”#
The intercollegiate athletics program will add yet another dimension to student life at the rapidly-growing institution, providing opportunities for personal growth and wellness through physical competition and activity.# GGC is committed to a philosophy of total personal development. A complete athletics program, including these new varsity sports, along with club sports and intramurals, offers all students an opportunity to develop skills in teamwork, leadership and other key areas.
“We are pleased to offer intercollegiate athletics to our students, as it represents another milestone in our brief history.# Varsity sports will enhance the college”s vision of a fully integrated educational experience,”# said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “Students who are engaged in college stay in college, and this new level of athletics will provide even more incentive for students to get involved, stay in school and graduate.”#
GGC”s new athletics complex also will include a practice field and an athletics building containing locker rooms and offices for the coaching staff – staff that must be hired within the next year.
“We are moving quickly toward hiring an athletics director,”# said Tomas Jimenez, chair of the college”s intercollegiate athletics task force. “Once the AD is on board, he or she will continue to expand upon the work of the task force.”#
Kaufman formed the task force in 2010, and charged its members with investigating the feasibility of developing an intercollegiate athletics program, and making recommendations regarding the program”s scope.
Jimenez, dean of students, was chosen to lead the task force. He has extensive experience from working with championship athletic departments at Louisiana State, University of Virginia, Northern Arizona University and University of Miami.
Other task force members represented a broad range of athletic experience. For example, Bill Rogers, assistant dean for Wellness, is a well-known tennis coach and a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Admissions Director Tee Mitchell played professional baseball within the Los Angeles Dodgers” system.
Other members have experience ranging from hockey to volleyball to support services. Laura Maxwell, interim vice president for Resources, served at the United States Military Academy at West Point as senior associate athletic director/chief financial officer for Army Athletics. Beauchamp himself has a broad perspective as both an athlete and an athlete”s parent.
Patel, the task force”s student representative, played on a community parks and recreation program”s traveling baseball team, and has intern experience with the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers.
“The experience on the nine-member task force enabled us to proceed very quickly through the planning process,”# said Jimenez. The task force reviewed similar processes at other colleges recently introducing varsity athletics programs. The group considered a large number of factors in its recommendations, including student preference, gender equity, the popularity of certain sports and the cost of operating those sports.
The result was a plan to introduce six sports in the fall of 2012, including men”s baseball, men”s and women”s soccer, men”s and women”s tennis and women”s fastpitch softball.# These may be followed by men”s and women”s basketball and women”s volleyball in the fall of 2013. The varsity programs will complement the college”s club and intramural athletics, offering students of all athletic abilities the opportunity to participate.
The GGC athletics program and facilities will be funded completely through student fees and private support.# Fee approval was received from the student body, and then from the University System of Georgia”s Board of Regents, earlier this year.
“While we”ve accomplished quite a lot in terms of developing the program”s basic goals, scope and philosophy, we look forward to an athletic director taking these plans and making them a reality,”# Jimenez said.
The AD will, quite literally, pick up the ball and run with it – hiring coaches and other support staff, overseeing facilities development, applying to the NAIA, recruiting student athletes, ordering athletic gear and supplies, and developing other fundamental program features to ensure the college is ready for competition in only about a year”s time.
This may seem like an impossible feat but this is, after all, Georgia Gwinnett College. The institution has come a long way in a very short time. It opened its doors in 2006 to only 118 students. This August, more than 8,000 students will walk the campus, which now includes a new student center, three large housing facilities and a library and learning center. A new laboratory facility will open in time for fall semester classes.
The college also benefits from the rich athletics resources of the Gwinnett region. If facility construction gets behind schedule, college officials are confident that they can find local facilities where students can practice and play. In addition, Jimenez observed that the college could field entire teams from the deep, local talent pool.
The college will certainly attract more students as a result of having intercollegiate athletics. GGC officials also look forward to the active involvement of the local community in the program.
“Our athletics program will add engagement opportunities for our campus community, as well as the community at large,”# said Kaufman. “I can think of no better place to build an intercollegiate athletics program than in Gwinnett. This region has the resources, the interest and the enthusiasm to support and champion a collegiate program. We look forward to many years of hearing our students, friends and neighbors cheer, “go Grizzlies!”#