The women’s bowling team is the newest team to join the university’s athletic program.
But while it is becoming an emerging sport on campus, the team has faced numerous challenges in its beginning stages.
Bowling officially became a sport at Florida A&M University three years ago, beginning with a trial period in 1998. Since its instatement, bowling has not been very well known on campus; it is just starting to be recognized.
“They are beginning to gain exposure,” Head Coach Novella Franklin said. “The sports information director is beginning to write more about us.”
One of the main challenges has been recruiting talent, Franklin said. Many high schools in north Florida do not have bowling in their athletic programs, so it is difficult for coaches to find talent in the area to bowl for the university she, said.
“Normally, students send in a DVD or write e-mails informing me of their interest to bowl for the university,” Franklin said.
“Most of the information I receive is from out-of-state students. Most out-of-state schools have bowling in their curriculum. Florida has it, but the north Florida area does not.”
This year’s team finished with a 27-56-1 record, also going 1-2 in the MEAC Tournament.
The coaching staff said the mark should have been a lot better.
“It was disappointing to me,” said Paul Williams, an assistant coach.
“We have better bowlers than the team turned out. We faced some tough competition that had some really good bowlers. Unfortunately, we don’t get the 200 average bowlers. This is not an environment conducive to turning out bowlers, and when you do not have a big pool to choose from, it is tough.”
Williams said scouting quality players requires funding.
Each of the university’s athletic teams receives funding from the athletic department.
A few of the school’s sports teams are profitable.
“Three sports generate revenue for the university: football and men’s and women’s basketball,” said FAMU Athletic Department Director of Marketing Earl Kitchings.
“They are pretty much whole funded by the athletic department, but (bowling) is still a sport that is in its infant stages.”
Williams said that while bowling may be a growing sport at FAMU, it may not be given the opportunities by the athletic department it needs to succeed in recruitment.
“I think it could be better,” Williams said. “We are not a revenue-producing sport. We could be a revenue-producing team given the right incentive from the athletic department. Why treat bowling as a stepchild? Without bowling, there would be no gender equity sports for those big sports.”
The current team is young; there are two seniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
For most of the team, this is their first experience bowling competitively.
“It is still a growing team,” Franklin said. “There are some (students) we have to teach how to bowl. We have to practice and spend more time teaching the game, like what the arrows on the lanes mean, what the dots on the lanes mean and how to keep score.”
The bowling team may be on track to establish a name while building a strong base with a little help, Williams mentioned.
“With the institution’s advertising of bowling, we will become better,” Williams said. “With advertising, we can attract bowlers. And by winning, we can push the face of the university, and we are trying to establish a winning program.”
Contact Danon Bell at DanonBell@yahoo.com