Non-traditional sports increase campus diversity

Athletic officials say that diversity is increasing on Florida A&M University’s non-traditional athletic teams, like softball, baseball and volleyball.

The rise in the recruitment of non-black athletes throughout the university has changed the traditional all-black team rosters to now include whites, Latino, German and Asian athletes.

FAMU’s head baseball coach Robert Lucas, who also coached at FAMU during 1986-1991, said he only had two non-black athletes on his rosters during his first six-year span.

Lucas said there are now six non-black athletes on the baseball team.

“Inner city teams are becoming non-existent and are moving to the suburbs, and with that we are losing our [black] players,” Lucas said. “I recruit the player based on talent and performance. That is all that matters.”

Tim Schalch, 21, a junior business student from Sarasota, plays as infielder on the men’s baseball team. Schalch said although he is a white student , he is comfortable attending FAMU.

“FAMU has a more relaxed setting on the field and in the classroom,” Schalch said.

FAMU’s women’s volleyball team, which is composed of eight players, has members from Peru, Ecuador, Germany, and Siberia. There is only one black athlete on the team.

Maria Gomez, 20, a sophomore economic student from Guayaquil, Ecuador, who plays middle on the volleyball team, said she found FAMU while searching the Internet for a school in Florida.

“I e-mailed the coaches and they called me back,” Gomez said. “I knew some of my new teammates from competing back home and the assistant coach spoke Spanish. I knew it would be the right school for me.”

Gomez said the game is universal.

“Four of us speak Spanish, two speak Siberian, and one speaks German,” Gomez said. “But when we practice and play, we all try to speak English.”

The softball team is making history in 2007 with three non-black players, the most the program has ever had. This includes the program’s first Asian athlete.

Tiffany Chan, 20 a junior occupational health student from Fremont, Calif. and the first Asian to play in the university’s softball program, said she wanted to continue to play softball after junior college and when searching for a school, she said FAMU was the most appealing.

“I never thought about making history, I was just looking for a school so I could continue to play ball,” Chan said. “I have just become a part of something special.”

Lucas said that to raise the number and caliber of black players, historically black colleges and universities must gain the exposure and appreciation from future athletes.