I-A Move Affects Olympic Sports

As all eyes focus on the Rattler football team, as it makes its move to Division I-A. FAMU’s Olympic sports have fewer worries on their plate.

Olympic sports, as defined by the athletic department- volleyball, tennis, track and field, swimming, bowling and golf- have been competing in the top division. Football is the only sport in the NCAA where Division I separates into I-A and I-AA.

Right now though, the biggest concern is finding a conference that will house all of FAMU’s sports.

“We hope to find a conference that will take all of our sports,” said Alvin Hollins, sports information director. “Conference USA and the Sun Belt [Conference] are the two best possibilities.”

Hollins said there is a possibility that athletic programs may be split between conferences, with football in one and the Olympic sports in another, maybe even the Mid-eastern Athletic Conference, the school’s current conference affiliation.

Whereas the move directly influences football, there is an indirect impact on Olympic sports, Hollins said. Olympic sports will expand when the athletic department adds women’s soccer and golf.

“What the long term effects will be, that remains to be seen,” he said.

Olympic sport coaches are sticking to the regular game plan, but realize what a new a conference may bring.

“We’ve already been playing against some of the top teams in the country,” said women’s tennis coach James Hargrove. “This gives us more exposure and it’s better for recruitment.”

Track and field coach Rey Robinson said there would not be any changes to the track and field schedule.

“A new conference could bring a different caliber of athlete,” Robinson said.

We just have to step up the game and go with it. We’ll go on our way as we’ve done before.”

In the search for a conference, interim athletic director J.R.E. Lee said a priority is a revenue-sharing conference: one that gives financial rewards based on seasonal performance. The MEAC payoff goes to the championship winner.

“There is no revenue-sharing at all in the MEAC,” Lee said. “No matter how well we do, we still get nothing at all.”

In order to ease what could be a financial strain, Lee said he is looking for a conference that is “geographically compatible,” so that teams will not have to travel long distances to away games.

“We’re looking at conference affiliations very carefully,” Lee said. “This is a very positive step in terms of involving Olympic sports.”

Rahkia Nance can be reached at petite 8228@aol.com.