IUN looking to expand its athletic program
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org July 6, 2013 10:46PM
School Enrollment Sports
IUN 5,600 3
PUC 9,700 12
PNC 2,761 6
CCSJ 1,320 18
Updated: August 8, 2013 7:13AM
Being the small fish in a big pond isn’t easy, especially when your name suggests you should be a whale — or at the very least, a shark.
Indiana University Northwest in Gary is affiliated with the largest university in the state. But when it comes to college athletics in Northwest Indiana, IUN is small potatoes.
Athletic director Kristofer Schnatz hopes to change that perception.
“We want to be able to compete with other local schools and do the same sports they’re doing,” he said. “We feel we’re in a great location in between everybody. I just think we have so much potential here.”
“Everybody” to Schnatz and IUN entails Purdue Calumet in Hammond, Calumet College of St. Joseph’s in Whiting and Purdue North Central in Westville, which is where Schnatz worked previously as a basketball coach and assistant director of athletics for nine years before arriving at IUN this past school year.
Those are the other NAIA-affiliated schools in the region, and that organization is partly responsible for Schnatz’s plan to expand the Redhawks’ athletic program.
The NAIA approved a plan two years ago that requires each institution to have at least six championship sports by the 2015-16 school year to keep its affiliation.
IUN only has three championship sports — men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. That means adding three more sports in the next two years is a necessity to remain NAIA compliant.
Schnatz, who is IUN’s first full-time athletic director, has a bigger plan.
Two sports will be added for the 2014-15 year — men’s and women’s cross country — and at least one more will be added for the next season from a group of four sports: men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s golf.
“There are no spring sports here yet, which is why golf is on the table,” Schnatz said. “We discussed tennis, but obviously golf is better with the location of the course.”
Behind IUN’s campus sits South Gleason Park Golf Course, which would also be a logical place for cross country to practice and compete.
“Cross country just makes sense for us as far as facilities,” said Schnatz, who added that a coach will be hired in the fall to get a head start on recruiting.
Schnatz also said at least one emerging sport is being looked at, too. That would be bowling, which has been one of Calumet College’s most successful sports in the last seven years and has been added by fellow NAIA schools Huntington University and Indiana Tech near Fort Wayne, Marian University in Indianapolis and St. Francis University in Joliet, Ill.
IUN easily has the lowest number of championship sports among region NAIA schools. Purdue North Central has six total sports, but one of them (cheerleading) is considered an emerging sport by NAIA.
An emerging sport has less than 50 schools with teams. Men’s volleyball and bowling are the other NAIA emerging sports with bowling closing in on 50 NAIA schools in both men’s and women’s competition.
Purdue Calumet, which has aspirations of becoming NCAA Division III or II in the future according to athletic director Rick Costello, has 12 sports — several of which have been added in the last year and will start during this coming school year.
Calumet College, which is easily the smallest of the four local NAIA schools, has 18 sports with more than 20 percent of its total enrollment, and more than 40 percent of its full-time student population, in athletics.
“I want to improve the reputation of this program, to let it be known we have athletics, because not everybody knows here on campus,” Schnatz said.
“I really want to impact the university in some way and enrollment is a big thing right now. That’s why soccer makes sense, but soccer also brings more problems with transportation, meals, uniforms and renting a field.”
Purdue Calumet and Calumet College have soccer teams, so the competition aspect also comes into play, which Schnatz didn’t downplay.
“My goal is to get around 100 athletes on campus, if not more,” he said. “Right now we have around 50, depending on roster size. There are a lot more students taking less credit hours, and colleges are driven by the number of credit hours.”
Basically, the goal is to get athletes similar to Jennifer Williams from Chesterton High School and Mackenzie Westgate from Crown Point, who are the most recent IUN volleyball recruits. Neither was on an all-area team, but they will get the chance to compete in college.
Schnatz tossed in a pitch to sell IUN to any prospective region athletes who may be undecided later this year when it comes to a college choice.
“You’re getting a big time Indiana University degree and you’re getting the opportunity to play,” he said.
Local recruiting will get a whole lot more interesting.