Move over Michigan State. There are new green-clad Spartans among the ranks of college football. Castleton State College President Dave Wolk announced last week that starting in the fall of 2009, CSC will begin playing football.
“If CSC is going to maintain it’s competitive edge, we need to continue moving ahead,” Wolk said. “We’ve spent the last year researching other colleges with both long respected traditions in football and with newer programs.”
This announcement comes a month after it was revealed that CSC would begin constructing a lighted stadium with an artificial turf field. According to Castleton Athletic Director Deanna Tyson, the new stadium will seat 15,000.
With the blueprint in place for the launch of Castleton’s football program, there is much optimism throughout the Castleton community.
“The president has been supportive of all our athletic programs,” Tyson said. “And he will support football to make it successful.
“The students are going to embrace it and it’s going to be exciting.”
The football team will compete in the North Atlantic Conference, which announced the addition of football a couple months ago.
The teams joining CSC in the newly formed NAC include: soon to be in-state rival Norwich University, Becker College, Husson College, Mount Ida College, SUNY Maritime and Gallaudet University.
Castleton’s football program represents the 20th varsity sport at CSC and is part of a string of upgrades the school has experienced in six years with Wolk as president.
“There were 12 varsity sports when I got here and 110 student-athletes,” Wolk said. “Right now there are 19 teams and 350 student-athletes.”
With all the growth and development of Castleton’s athletic programs, Wolk is quick to stress that Castleton remains an academic institution first and foremost.
“We focus on student, not on athlete,” Wolk said.
According to Wolk, retention and graduation rates are higher among student athletes than among the general college population.
“The new football program will add to the campus climate,” Wolk said. “As always, we stress academic achievement, sportsmanship, leadership and community service.”
Football at CSC will also be a way to attract prospective students.
“It will open up to Vermonters who grew up in Vermont and want to stay and play football,” Tyson said. “It will also give out-of-staters another opportunity to play football.”
One current student from outside Vermont is sophomore Jon Mortensen, who played high school football in Springfield, Mass.
“Hopefully I’m going to play,” Mortensen said. “I tore my ACL last summer, but hopefully I’ll be better. I think a lot of people are excited and really want to go for it.”
Freshman Andrew Hicks doesn’t plan on playing football, but is certainly looking forward to 2009.
“They’ll get great turnout and I think we can be at the top of the NAC,” Hicks said. “I’d just like to be able to go to the games.”
CSC Communications Director Ennis Duling shares in the excitement.
“I am looking forward to taking football photos and seeing some of them in print and on the web,” Duling said. “Football is going to add more excitement to Castleton’s image.”
And from now on when football fans in Vermont hear about Spartans, they will think of CSC.