Wildcats Complete Watershed Year
Penn College athletics continues its transition to NCAA Division III competition.
by Matt Blymier, assistant director of athletics/sports information director
The Wildcats celebrate their win in the North Eastern Athletic Conference Championships. Photo by Anna Palmer.
The growth of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s athletics department has been steady over the past four years, and 2015 marked a watershed year for the Wildcats. Penn College completed its first year of NCAA provisional membership in Division III and its inaugural year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.
“We are right where we need to be – and maybe a little further along than expected – in our transition to an NCAA program,” Penn College Director of Athletics Scott Kennell said. “We have one year behind us, and we’re looking forward to what the future has for this department.”
“We’re looking forward to what the future has for this department.”
The NCAA defines the membership process as “an interactive multi-year progression that prepares candidate institutions for membership as successful Division III athletics programs. The five-year process is comprised of one exploratory year of membership and four years of provisional/reclassifying membership, and includes educational and operational benchmarks that introduce institutions to the Division III philosophy and the best practices of model Division III institutions.”
“The first year has been very informative for the administration as we transition into an NCAA institution,” explained Kennell. “The NCAA is very detailed and thorough in its expectations of a potential member, and that has made any changes we have to make a seamless process.”
Penn College added its first four full-time coaches, with plans for two additional full-time coaches after the 2015-16 academic year. In addition to the new coaches, the college has hired a second full-time athletic trainer to keep up with the growing number of student-athletes and appointed Tom Zimmerman, associate professor of psychology, as the faculty athletics representative. He serves as a liaison between the faculty and the athletics department.
Prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 year, the athletics department partnered with SideArm Sports to launch an athletics-specific website and signed a three-year deal with Lids Team Sports to make Nike the official apparel for Penn College athletics.
“Those two changes will go a long way in the recruiting and retention of student-athletes,” Kennell explained. “And we wouldn’t be able to make these necessary changes without the support of President Davie Jane Gilmour and (Chief Student Affairs Officer) Elliott Strickland.”
With 13 intercollegiate programs and more than 170 student-athletes, athletics is becoming a significant recruiting tool for the college. Fifty-eight current students were recruited for athletics in 2014-15, and that number is expected to increase in the next two years.
The Wildcats’ athletic teams and student-athletes have navigated the higher level of competition with mixed results. Men’s tennis qualified for the NEAC playoffs, and the baseball team won the 2015 NEAC Championships.
“I strongly believe that, within the next two seasons, Penn College will be competing annually for conference championships,” Kennell said. “We have great resources, great coaches, the backing of our institution and the strong reputation of Penn College that will entice the students we want and need to be successful in sports.” ■