New Roosevelt athletic director Mike Cassidy stopped in last Thursday to talk about the return of RU sports, and I have to admit, I like a lot of what I heard.
Three issues in particular that Cassidy touched upon impressed me:
1.) Cassidy wants to take his time before officially fielding teams, choosing to field teams of players he feels are qualifed instead of just fielding a team comprised of just anyone. Let's have legit, high-quality athletes competing. There's a long-term plan for RU athletics, and I'd much rather have a 2012 basketball team with 12 quality guys than a 2011 team with a few guys who might deserve to be there, a few more who were recruited late and a few more who played a couple years in high school. Let's start with quality. Good call. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
2.) Cassidy wants a quality facility that is near the RU campus and gives first priority to RU athletics, and he says plans to build an on-campus fieldhouse are "in the works." He also wants to make a deal with other colleges in the Loop and make a large outdoor playing facility that the schools would share. Playing at UIC, North Central or North Park is no way to go, at least after the first few years. RU athletes will probably feel inferior, like guests, when they host games or matches. A quality facility, a place that RU athletes can feel is their own, even if they're sharing it with students from nearby schools, is critical to the success of athletic programs and will help bring better high school players to the school. Athletes want to play at places they feel are their own - they want that home-field or home-court advantage. Playing home games at North Central won't give that home-field advantage, won't get any RU teams respect from opponents and won't bring quality players to the school. And what Roosevelt athlete will want to get on a bus and ride out to North Central or even UIC for a game? A simple walk or short bus ride to their own facility would be much more appealing. Let's build something on campus, or at least right here downtown. A quality facility (or multiple facilities) set downtown just off Lake Michigan would likely be a big draw to recruits. Let's be honest: NAIA and even Division III events don't draw crowds of thousands. But if there's a game downtown, thousands of people will be walking or riding by, and plenty would likely take a look at a soccer game or outdoor event going on. An outdoor facility set downtown has the potential for a buzzing, exciting environment. Either facility (the fieldhouse or an outdoor one) could also be used to host big high school games - and help even more with recruiting. It's easy to picture a high school soccer or baseball player playing a big game on a nice night along the lake, with downtown buzzing with people, and thinking, This is a nice place to play. Facilities right in the heart of the Loop? Good call.
3.) Cassidy wants coaches of the new teams to help monitor over intramural programs involving their sport at the university. RU certainly could use a better intramural program - students know little about opportunities to play soccer, basketball or other sports that are so popular at other schools. Better intramural programs lead to happier students and more high school students coming to RU. As an RU graduate student, I don't even know of any intramural programs, but I know I'd be interested in several sports if they were available. Several students have told me the same. Let's do a better job offering intramurals to students. Good call.
Want to listen to the entire interview? Go ahead.