How new sports are chosen for UCCS Athletics

Devon Martinez, Tom Baker  

dmarti31@uccs.edutbaker8@uccs.edu  

     Why doesn’t UCCS have a football team? Or a wrestling team? What other sports can UCCS add? How does UCCS decide which sport to add next?  

    The Scribe has asked these questions on multiple occasions. Funding, staffing and Title IX compliance have all been cited by the university as barriers adding new sports, according to previous articles

     Yet, according to Nathan Gibson, executive director of athletics, regular conversations occur about implementing sports teams that the university does not already have. Despite hurdles, UCCS has been able to add new NCAA intercollegiate sports in recent years. 

     “Over the last 10-15 years, we’ve regularly added sports,” Gibson said. “Women’s soccer, women’s golf, [the] track and field expansion, baseball, women’s lacrosse, are all new to us in the last 10-ish years.”  

     Gibson and the athletic department have an evaluation process that guides them in deciding which sports to add, namely taking student interest into consideration. SGA has assisted this process by creating all-student surveys. 

     Student interest led the charge for baseball and women’s soccer to become NCAA intercollegiate sports. Both were previously club sports, which are different as they do not have to follow NCAA rules or Title IX rules and are entirely student run with their own bylaws and constitutions. 

     “Women’s soccer had a huge club program on our campus and obviously our conference was growing in that sport as well,” Gibson said. “And it just was really almost a no brainer to say like well, ‘We really need to look at women’s soccer’ and [why] we were not sponsoring it as a NCAA intercollegiate sport. 

     “Baseball is a similar example like just over time evaluating; it was pretty clear when we engage with students that you know these are the sports of most interest.” 

     Lack of student interest has also prevented club sports from moving up to the NCAA intercollegiate level of competition. In some cases, the sport lost enough student interest to the point that it failed as a club sport. 

     According to Director of Campus Recreation Skyler Rorabaugh, the UCCS wrestling club was formed in 2012 as an organized/recognized club sport under campus recreation. The sport had gained enough interest in Spring 2015 to expand and include a women’s division. However, student interest did not increase, and the club dissolved that fall.  

     The same thing happened to club football, which became inactive during Spring 2019 season. A lack of student interest and a lack of collegiate club football in the region challenged its efficacy.  

     “They would have had to have traveled to Illinois to participate in a sanctioned League,” Rorabaugh said. “They could have continued with just kind of one-off type football games against some local teams, but they were playing against grown men, adults that were former NFL players, high level college players — and it really was not a very competitive league for our team.” 

     According to Gibson, football is also too expensive and would cause problems for the school in following Title IX rules.  

     “If you’re going to have a football program here, we are probably going to spend more money in football than our current budget for the whole [athletic department],” Gibson said.  

     The athletic department also has regular Title IX reviews where they look at the student athlete participation rates compared to the campus populations.  

     Gibson said the school is around 52% female and 40% male, and the school must mirror those percentages with student athlete opportunities.  

     Gibson believes that the Title IX reviews have helped guide the conversation to add more opportunities for women, including the expansion of women’s track and field and the introduction of women’s golf, lacrosse and soccer. All have coincided with the addition of the baseball program.  

     Sport sponsorship with the NCAA is another factor the school examines. There was a tennis program at UCCS, but it was removed because it was no longer sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference — the conference that all UCCS sponsored collegiate sports fall under.  

     Men’s lacrosse, according to Gibson, is a good example of this.  

     “It’s a sport that really isn’t sponsored at a high level in our conference at the moment, but it’s also one that you might look at, as you know as more of an emerging sport,” Gibson said. “It would be extremely expensive to have that sport because of the travel requirement.”  

     Despite wrestling not working as a club sport in the past, Gibson believes it has potential at UCCS because RMAC sponsors it, which makes it easier to find competition. Wrestling also has a solid base for recruitment from Colorado high schools, according to Gibson. 

     Students can facilitate new sports by starting or joining a club. Students can also voice their opinions on which sports they would like to see at UCCS by either participating in the surveys sent by the school or by emailing The Scribe at scribe@uccs.edu