A ferocious owl commands attention in Mississippi University for Women’s Pohl Gymnasium. New 10’x 6’ Nevco scoreboards are up complete with LED lights and shot clocks. An athletic training room and locker rooms are in place and new laundry facilities have been installed.
There is no question that Owls Athletics has officially made its debut on campus and in the community. “It has been shocking in a positive way,” said Jason Trufant, director of Athletics & Recreation. “You are going to see some form of our logo somewhere. We have been working hard to build our partnerships with local and national businesses.”
One of those partnerships is with the Columbus Municipal School District. CMSD and The W inked an agreement that will allow the university to use the Columbus High School baseball field to showcase The W’s new baseball program.
Dr. Phillip Hickman said, “The CMSD team is very excited to partner with such a prestigious university in this endeavor. Through positive partnerships and sharing of resources, communities often flourish. This is definitely a win-win situation for CMSD, MUW and the city of Columbus.”
Trufant said, “This is a tremendous opportunity for our new baseball program to showcase their talents at a quality playing facility here in Columbus.” The on-campus baseball facility is in the initial planning phase, and Don Usher Field, for the softball program, is scheduled to be completed in February 2018. Both facilities will be state-of-the-art playing sites for our programs to utilize and use as a recruiting tool going forward.
The men’s soccer program is using the Columbus Soccer Complex to play matches. “It has been great working with the city and county to provide games in a centralized and welcoming environment,” Trufant said.
Corporate sponsorships are also crucial to the program. The first Owls Athletics agreement was secured with Renasant Bank early in the spring 2017 semester. Recently, the Owls partnered with BankFirst Financial Services in June of 2017 and VisitColumbus in September of 2017. All agreements will further enhance the student-athlete experience while providing each sponsor with visible advertising across all forms of print and social media.
“The support of our local business leaders has a positive impact on the overall student-athlete experience here at The W. We look forward to strengthening those relationships,” Trufant said.
Physically, the staff is expanding and is in the process of renovating space on the second floor of Hogarth Student Center. This will provide the department with a centralized location on campus and space for new staff to fill in as the department continues to grow.
“Our staff has expanded beyond the walls and available space in Cromwell Hall,” said Trufant. It was time for us to move to a larger location on campus where the staff can grow and continue to provide the necessary resources to the student-athletes.”
Owls Athletics currently is part of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. A national organization, USCAA focuses primarily on smaller colleges, providing opportunities for athletic competition and recognition at both regional and national levels.
The W is also pursuing membership in NCAA Division III athletics. Trufant, along with W President Jim Borsig, Faculty Athletics Representative Dr. Scott Tollison and Assistant Athletic Director Brooke Carter traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., to begin the exploratory process of Division III membership. This trip provided critical training and information as the department embarks on regaining NCAA membership.
More than 180,000 student-athletes at 450 institutions make up Division III, the largest NCAA division both in number of participants and number of schools. The Division III experience offers participation in a competitive athletic environment that pushes student-athletes to excel on the field and build upon their potential by tackling new challenges across campus.
Trufant said, “Athletic scholarships are not offered in Division III. Academics, coaching and facilities all work hand in hand to attract students to enable them to achieve at a high level.”