The Athletics Working Group formed by President M. Lee Pelton during the summer has identified a lack of resources available to student-athletes as the main area for improvement in the athletics program after its first meeting this academic year.
Dean of Students Ronald Ludman, chair of the working group, said stepping up the level of support the students receive from the athletic department is vital to remaining competitive while making the move to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in September.
“What we have come to see is that there are resource issues that the college needs to attend to,” Ludman said. “There are areas of support and resources that need to be provided to the student-athletic program, so it can be as competitive as possible in a much more competitive environment.”
The committee was created in June by Pelton after the resignation of former Athletic Director Kristin Parnell. Last year, athletes at the college petitioned the department, calling for the position of athletic director to be reconsidered, and for clearer communication from administrators.
According to the initial announcement about the creation of the council from Pelton sent to the Emerson community, the working group was also established to oversee the transition into the NEWMAC.
The group has only had one full meeting and has scheduled its second meeting for Nov. 16. Patrick Lowndes, a sophomore journalism major, said the group attended a board of trustees meeting that alerted trustee members to the hurdles the athletics program was facing.
“I think the board of trustees members didn’t really understand a lot of the problems we were going through, and when they heard about some of them, they were kind of stunned,” said Lowndes, one of two current Emerson athletes participating in the council.
Lowndes and Ludman both identified player transportation, meal money, equipment, uniforms, class scheduling and flexibility as areas that need improvement.
“The goal is, within the next few years, to have busses for every game, to make sure that all athletes uniforms are set, to have athlete class registration figured out. Team gear through the school would be another huge accomplishment,” Lowndes said. “I think the last one, that is probably the biggest, is recognition from teachers that it is not just a hobby.”
Ludman added that Emerson must aim to match the level of support that future NEWMAC rivals are giving their student-athletes.
“I think [the NEWMAC] offers us a much higher benchmark to aspire to,” Ludman said. “All of us in the group want to make sure that all the sports are provided a certain level of resources and support, so at the very least they are competitive.”
Ludman said that while the NEWMAC presents some interesting challenges, it also represents some opportunities that Emerson students can take advantage of.
“In some ways the stronger the athletic prgram becomes, it may also provide opportunities for students,” he said. “Sports is entertainment, so whether you are in film, TV, marketing, public relations, journalism, there is lots of opportunity.”
Emerson was one of the founding members of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in 1995, but has outgrown the competition, Ludman said.
According to Ludman, the upgrade is in part because of successful recruiting classes recently with 44 percent of admitted student athletes deciding to attend Emerson this year, while 24 percent of first year admitted students decided to attend Emerson.
He said he expects the move to the NEWMAC to further strengthen the recruiting classes by attracting better athletes.
“The NEWMAC has a brand that might be more recognizable to student-athletes that are looking for a higher level of athletic competition,” Ludman said. “Logic suggests that it might attract stronger student-athletes down the road.”
Lowndes said that while the Athletics Working Group is still in the early stages, the Emerson athletic department has already begun to see some improvements.
“Change doesn’t happen like the snap of a finger, but I think we have the people in place to get it done,” Lowndes said. “I think this Athletics Working Group really is a huge step towards people understanding that athletics is taken seriously here.”