An inside look at starting a sport at UD

Ryan McAnany, Sports Editor

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The small but mighty tennis team finished 21st out of 57 teams at the United States Tennis Association's Tennis on Campus Section Championship. Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

Playing a sport here at the University of Dallas requires time, effort and commitment — of this there can be no doubt. But starting a sport here, let alone getting it recognized as a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sport, is an entirely different ball game.

Such has been the case for two groups here at UD — the Swim Club and the Tennis Club. Both teams, which have been under development for the past two to three years, are undergoing the tedious transition from club sport to an official, NCAA-recognized team, fully equipped with a coach, facilities and funding. As it turns out, simply creating an NCAA team is a lot more challenging than many might expect.

It starts with initiative, and there is plenty of that to be found in the two individuals who decided to dedicate their time to starting sports programs at UD. Senior Jake Loel, founder of the Swim Club, and junior JP Bremar, founder of the Tennis Club, share the common goal of solidifying their respective sports as permanent aspects of this school. Their journeys to accomplish this mission, however, have not shared many common characteristics.

The Tennis Club has technically been under construction for longer, but not by much. Even before his freshman year here at UD, Bremar was certain he wanted to start a tennis team.

“Actually, while I was a prospie (sic) I decided to go to Dick Strockbine in athletics and ask him if I could get Division III tennis,” Bremar said. “He said I should start a club, get some interest, and then from there meet him again to see if we could push from club to Division III.”

Bremar remembered that he did not get off to a very fast start on his project in his freshman year, but it wasn’t long until he had recommitted himself to his goal of starting the team. By the spring semester of his sophomore year, Bremar had already garnered a large amount of interest throughout the school.

“Come junior year, I wasn’t going to Rome, I wasn’t an underclassman any more and I got the club together, but we didn’t have any money,” said Bremar.

That could possibly be the biggest “but” for them all; it seems that — for both Tennis and Swim — financing seems to be the biggest roadblock to success. Both Bremar and Loel seem optimistic, however, that it is a roadblock which can and will be overcome.

The Swim Club sprang from roots similar to those of the Tennis Club. Loel, like Bremar, took the initiative in organizing the effort to make his passion a reality at UD. Loel and Bremar both realized that their love for their sports was felt elsewhere in the UD community, and that it was worth whatever effort it may take to concentrate that passion into an organized sport.

The Swim Club’s path to being recognized as an NCAA sport has had one overwhelming obstacle for most of their brief existence — the very water in which they swim. The UD pool closes in October, making organizing practices inconvenient for the majority of the season. Loel has been working nonstop over the past two years to create schedules for practices at local pools such as North Lake College.

Now that both clubs have been established, both Loel and Bremar believe it is time for the next step: becoming an official NCAA sport. The process is long and toilsome, and the first man to whom Loel and Bremar had to reach out to was Dr. John Plotts.

“I’m the one who has to figure out how to make these things happen,” Plotts said.

Due to his position as head of Enrollment and Student Affairs, Plotts is charged with the duty of handling procedures like these and was happy to help elaborate upon the details that go into starting an NCAA sport. As expected, it takes a lot more than initiative and passion to accomplish this goal. The process requires logistics, lots of time, and yes, money. Plotts helped to explain some of the particular questions that went through his head the first time Loel and Bremar came to him.

“Where could they practice? Who could they compete against? And then, the other expense for me is a coach,” said Plotts. “Who do I find to get to be a coach. I always love the expansion. How do I make it happen?”

Philosophically, Plotts said, the administration is completely on board with the idea of adding more NCAA sports programs to UD. The main issue Plotts and the rest of the administration want to emphasize, for both Swim and Tennis, is continuity and interest.

“You’ve got to come up with succession plans — underclassmen who are willing to carry it on,” Plotts said.

After both Bremar and Loel proved to Plotts that common interest had been established, Plotts began looking for suitable coaches and funding for both teams. Plotts additionally began to inquire about the restrictions and requirements for participating in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Associaton (SCAC), which included details about coaches’ salaries, travel restrictions, uniforms and the mountains of paperwork inherent in the process.

Plotts, then, as well as Loel and Bremar, assumed a large responsibility — to transform a dream into reality. Despite all the hiccups along the journey, one thing seems to ring clear among the three of them: it matters.

“I just see tons of benefits,” Plotts said. “I’ve always been a big believer that [sports] have helped my academics rather than hurt them … in terms of the overall approach to education, you know, mind, body, spirit, they’re important to the human development.”

Transitioning from club teams to NCAA sports will help both the Swim and Tennis teams to overcome the barriers that still exist between them and fulfilling their passion for sports. Over the next few months, the administration will be working closely with both Loel and Bremar to set up a plan to eventually become NCAA sports. Both students realize that the effects they have on the school most likely will not be visible during their time here at UD.

“I’m working on getting this program NCAA recognized for future athletes who want to come to UD — athletes who want to participate in the fantastic academic programs we have here without giving up their dreams,” said Loel.

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