By the end of next year, Mississippi University for Women plans to be playing ball.
We don’t know what kind of ball it will be at this juncture, but The W reached another milestone moment in its path to resuming intercollegiate athletics Monday.
MUW announced the hiring of Jason Trufant as the university’s athletics director. He now becomes the face of athletics at The W and will be charged with the task of reviving athletics at the university. The school dropped sports in 2002.
Trufant, currently associate athletics director at Dowling College in New York, emerged from a handful of finalist, earning the confidence of MUW administrators on the basis os his experience and enthusiasm for the job.
He’ll have to rely heavily on both qualities in the months ahead. When Trufant reports to his new job on June 6, he will have plenty to do — everything from deciding which sports MUW will offer to staffing, scheduling, budgeting, conference affiliations and making dozens of other decisions related to any number of factors that are a part of building a collegiate athletics program.
It is a task that must be as daunting as it is exciting.
MUW’s return to sports, especially in a climate where education at all levels faces serious funding issues, might seem ill-timed at first blush.
But on closer examination, a return to athletics represents far more rewards than risks. MUW will likely compete at the lowest level of NCAA competition (Division III), which means no athletic scholarships and no “arms race” of spending that we see at the major-college level. Division III sports emphasizes the “student” part of “student-athlete,” which is consistent with the W’s message.
MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig says the university should be able to meet most of the costs associated with resuming college athletics along with the support of some private funding.
The W will likely start small and take measured steps in returning to the world of college athletics. The sports program we see at The W next year will be just the starting point. The W has laid out a general philosophy of what it expects from its athletics program, but Trufant will be given the necessary latitude to adjust those plans as the situation demands.
Borsig has extolled the benefits of college athletics since his arrival as president at MUW in 2012. The benefits are wide-ranging, he says. It is not only a way to extend The W’s brand to places where the university may not be well-known, it also enhances the campus atmosphere and serves as a rallying point for alumni and the community.
Our confidence in this move is also buoyed by the fact that The W has exercised due diligence in this matter. This is not some spur-of-the-moment decision. Instead, it represents more than two years of committee work as the university weighed the merits and challenges of resuming collegiate athletics.
We have confidence that MUW has done its homework and will proceed in a responsible manner.
Trufant will, indeed, have his hands full in the months ahead.
We wish him every success and urge alumni and the community to support his efforts.
It is an exciting time at The W.
Let’s play ball!