Golden Tigers Add Three Intercollegiate Squads, 30-40 New Athletes
Brenau University’s Golden Tigers sports teams will add “junior varsity” teams to its lineup of championship-class intercollegiate athletics programs and will pick up about 30 to 40 student athletes in the process.
Starting in the 2015-16 academic year, the Golden Tigers will pick up second teams in basketball and softball as well as add a dance unit to its competitive cheerleading team.
Recruiting for all the sports programs is already underway. When the new teams are at full complement, said Brenau Athletics Director Mike Lochstampfor, the total number of student athletes will grow from the 161 it fielded in the 2014-15 academic year to more than 200 on rosters of its thirteen 2015-16 squads. That means that about 22 percent of the student body of the 137-year-old Women’s College at the university will participate in intercollegiate athletics.
“It’s a natural progression,” said Lochstampfor. “In basketball it was the model we had in mind when we started the program in 2006, but then the budgeting and planning process didn’t go where we thought it might.”
Golden Tigers teams compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and, for the most part, in the Southern States Athletics Conference. In addition to softball, basketball and cheer, Brenau offers cross country, track and field, volleyball, swimming, tennis and golf.
In 2014-15 the Golden Tigers swim team finished No. 3 in the nation and won the Appalachian Swim Conference title. The three-year-old track team won its third straight SSAC title. The tennis team, a two-time national champion and perennial title contender, went to the NAIA tournament this year ranked 8th in the nation, but lost to the No. 9 team in the opening round.
Brenau is in the lead pack in the trend of establishing junior varsity sports, but it isn’t alone. Southern States Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Hall said he estimates that about half of the NAIA league’s 14 schools have at least one or two junior varsity programs.
“It’s a development type of approach for schools,” Hall said, “a chance for players to develop and move up to varsity. For athletes, it’s a chance for them to continue what they began in high school, to play against outside competition. It’s good to stay active in that way. If you’ve been doing something your whole life, you want to continue doing it. You don’t want it to end.”
Softball Coach Devon Thomas is also recruiting specifically for the junior varsity team, careful not to promise a spot on his varsity, which after a 1-19 start-up season in 2003-04, has grown into a national power. Until the team stumbled in the first round of the SSAC tournament this year, the Golden Tigers since 2009 have consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally and made it to the final four in 2012 NAIA tournament.
“We’re going to be looking at solid athletes, maybe those who have been overlooked, or have a certain skill they need to develop. My thinking is that it’s a development team, like Class AAA,” Thomas said.
For Cheerleading Coach Krista Britt, the addition of a dance squad is just one more opportunity to build on success. In its first three years of existence, the Brenau cheerleading team finished in the top four at the National Cheerleaders Association college nationals tournament.
“I’m excited,” said Britt. “One of the major reasons I took the job at Brenau was because of the coming recognition of it as a sport.”
Competitive Cheer & Dance becomes a title sport in 2016, but Britt says the new dance component will be separated in competition, with separate titles. She expects to add 12 to 14 recruits for the dance squad. Although she says she does not plan to name a separate head coach, she will oversee all three facets of her program – spirit, cheerleading and dance.
To learn more about the Brenau University Golden Tigers sports teams and how students can apply for recruiting, visit http://www.brenautigers.com.