The incredible athletic department you’ve never heard of

by Thomas Carroll / Beacon Correspondent • March 13, 2013

Opinion pano color
Good enough for the Lakers, good enough for the Lions?
Good enough for the Lakers, good enough for the Lions?

My younger sister, a senior in high school, recently toured Emerson. When her tour guide started talking about athletics, he said something along the lines of, “And as you probably already know, Quidditch is our number one sport.” She texted me later that day to ask if this was true. I told her no, and that the guide had just been joking. She is interested in being a student athlete, and the last thing I wanted her to think was that our school valued a sport where players “fly” on brooms more than its own NCAA varsity teams.

I thought back to the two tours I took while deciding on Emerson, and recalled that both times the exact same thing about Quidditch was said to my group. As a junior and a member of the men’s volleyball team, I don’t understand why these tour guides are so infatuated with Quidditch. 

Emerson should be promoting its athletics department more. It’s upsetting that the majority of the students here do not care about our teams and could not even tell you where or what Rotch Field is. The athletic department and it’s supporters should be advertised to prospective students just as much as our studios and theaters and rooms named after the guy that invented the Furby. Maybe Emerson students’ general apathy toward athletics starts during these tours when they are told that the Weasley brothers’ game of choice is number one.

Now, more than ever, Emerson needs to sell its prospective students on the athletics program. The program, except for the men’s volleyball team, is moving from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference. This new conference has teams ranked nationally every year in both men’s and women’s sports. Top-level Division 3 athletes want to come to a school that shows passion for its programs, and the Emerson athletics department has a lot to make known.

First, the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym is very impressive. It’s completely unique; you will not find another gym that looks like this one. If you do, I can guarantee it will not be underground. With the skybox and athletics offices overseeing the court through their glass walls, and Emerson Sports Network inhabiting the other large space down there, it’s much more aesthetically pleasing than your average basketball court. It was opened in September 2006, so all the bathrooms and locker rooms are still fairly new and in good shape. This is not something we should take for granted. As a member of the volleyball team, I have been to many other gyms. Nice bathrooms and locker rooms are hard to come by. If students see this gym compared to those of other Division 3 schools in the area, it could be something that sway a prospective athlete toward Emerson. An added bonus: If you hang out down there long enough, you could bump into an NBA player or two.

The successes Emerson’s teams have had in the past calendar year: Last spring, the softball team went 32-9 and finished second in the GNAC. Both the women’s lacrosse and men’s soccer teams fell one game short of advancing to their respective GNAC championship games. The women’s volleyball team had an improbable run to win the 2012 GNAC championship and went on to compete in the 2012 NCAA Division 3 Women’s Volleyball Tournament. Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams advanced to the GNAC Championship in 2012. It was the women’s team’s second straight appearance. Both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams won at the 2012 Massachusetts Maritime Lt. Travis J. Fuller Cross Country Invitational. Most recently, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams advanced to the postseason, with the former hosting a home playoff game.

Aside from its winnings, the Emerson athletics department also has some notable alumni. Sam Presti and Rob Hennigan are both former Emerson men’s basketball standouts and current NBA general managers. Presti helped put together the 2012 Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that might compete for multiple NBA Titles in the near future. This past summer, the Orlando Magic hired Hennigan as the youngest general manager in the NBA. Hennigan spent four seasons as Presti’s assistant with the Thunder. 

Only UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, and Wheaton College have had multiple graduates become NBA general managers. If that is not the mark of having a successful, appealing Division 3 athletics program, then what is? Two former student athletes as the head of two different professional sports franchises sounds pretty convincing to me.

Emerson is a great school. The connections students can make in the entertainment and communications industry are phenomenal. Graduates of Emerson have gone on to do some awesome stuff professionally. But this does not mean we should neglect the great athletics program we have. Emerson should sell itself as being the package deal, because as far as Division 3 schools go, it really is.