Seattle U nearing decision on athletic program expansion


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The original article can be found here:

by Colleen Fontana  


Seattle University will be adding a new women's sport in the coming year in response to the Title IX requirements of gender equality.

Until 2006, Seattle U had been in compliance with the gender equity requirements stated in the Title IX athletic conditions. Because the gender ratio of all students was consistent with the gender ratio of student athletes, the school was considered to be in agreement with the conditions of the department.

But when Seattle U began adding sports to the program, the numbers began to get uneven.

"The decision was made to add five new sports," said athletic director Bill Hogan.

Men and women's golf and tennis as well as baseball were added to the sport options. Though this opened up some good opportunities for the students, it also caused a shift in the numbers.

"Baseball is a high number sport, about 35 student athletes," said assistant athletic director Erin Engelhardt. "Also just the interest in our men's tennis and golf programs has just a little bit surpassed our women's."

Engelhardt also recognized that in the move to Division One, coaches weren't necessarily asked to maintain a certain ratio of women and men when recruiting.

In order to bring the school back into compliance, the Gender Equity Committee has been developing a report to add another women's sport.

Among the many sports, the committee has narrowed it down to three potential choices: crew, lacrosse and beach volleyball.

There is a lot to consider and it has not been an easy process.

"All three have their pros and cons," said Shannon Ellis, the women's indoor volleyball coach.

According to Ellis, crew would be expensive and logistically complicated because of the need to transport people and boats. But there is also already existing interest and talent for the sport because of the club team that currently exists.

Lacrosse is a growing sport and is cheaper, but athletics would face the struggle of sharing field time with the soccer teams.

Beach volleyball is also steadily becoming more popular and this is the first year it has been part of the NCAA.

This could be a big benefit for Seattle U.

"The advantages of [beach volleyball] are that you're getting in on the ground floor, so theoretically we could be good the first year. And it is the least expensive of the sports to add because there's some duplication of efforts by staff and athletes," Ellis said.

However, beach volleyball is a spring sport, so the Seattle weather would hardly be conducive to extensive outdoor practices and matches. There are, however, several indoor facilities that the university could utilize should they decide on this sport.

"All three are great options," Ellis said. "All three would bring in great students to the university in terms of scholar athletes. They're all high achieving."

The students at Seattle U have a lot to be excited about in the coming year.

"The students have been so great, especially in the past few years, in catching onto this idea of school spirit and the wear red and it's just so much more fun," Ellis said. "It's more fun to walk around on campus, it's more fun to go to games and so I think that the more students catch that vision that this could be a really fun thing for the school, a rallying point for all sports."

The athletic department is looking forward to the growth of the program. Though it is taking a lot of planning and preparation, people are confident that the change will be worth it.

"I think it's a great opportunity. ... I think there's a lot of positive things that will come with adding a new sport," Engelhardt said. "I'm really grateful that we're putting so much work into going in a positive direction."


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