Women's athletics coming of age

When intercollegiate athletics began on The Citadel's campus somewhere around the conclusion of the 19th century, the assumed purpose was to help build morale and the total person, play competitively and win, and play within the rules. And now that the collegel fields a complete intercollegiate athletics program for women, absolutely nothing has changed.

Now in its sixth year of women's athletics, The Citadel fields seven women's sports as required by the NCAA to maintain Division I status (cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field, rifle, volleyball, soccer and golf).

"I think that our sponsoring seven intercollegiate sports for women is outstanding," says Director of Athletics Les Robinson. "There are colleges all across the country that have dropped men's sports because of Title IX," Robinson adds. "However, The Citadel has not and that speaks volumes of a very strong commitment to all sports by our school's administration and our overall athletic program."

Statistically, The Citadel has approximately 125 female cadets (including 49 freshmen) and 73, or 58 percent, of the women participate in the athletics program (that figure includes student-athletes, managers and cheerleaders).

The Athletics Department has committed more than $300,000 to fund the 25 scholarships for women's athletics. Of the 73 women involved with the Athletics Department, 38 benefit from some amount of athletic aid. Fifty percent of those receive full athletic scholarships while 35 participate without any athletic aid at all.

As with the men's program, coaches attempt to secure other types of aid, such as academic or ROTC, to help before athletic money is involved. "We have certainly come a long way," Robinson added. "Some of the students have been on scholarship, but many athletes on our teams are competing without scholarship assistance. It is a courageous path they have taken to be on these inaugural and young teams."

Figures confirm that funding and participation of women's sports has increased exponentially with female enrollment, with the number of student-athletes and with the number of sports.

Robinson, a former Bulldog basketball coach who has served as an athletics director at two other universities, East Tennessee State and N.C. State, is adamant about The Citadel's Athletics Department abiding by the college's and the department's mission, but is also high on the athletes being good citizens.

"We want our teams to be supportive of the community and keep our athletes involved in outreach activities," he says. "That will help us be successful in a variety of ways."

Women's Athletic Director Leslie Tysinger

Facility-wise, The Citadel spent $900,000 on an addition to McAlister Field House for female locker rooms and coaches offices. The same month as the addition was about complete, Robinson announced the hiring of Leslie Tysinger as the school's first senior woman administrator.

The Citadel's coaching staff and their efforts impress Tysinger. "The women's coaches, who are as competitive as their student-athletes, are recruiting as intensively as their male counterparts," Tysinger says. "Recruited female athletes this fall hail from as far away as Alaska, Colorado, and Washington (state), and internationally from Canada and Greece. The coaches are doing an outstanding job of recruiting talented and diverse student athletes."

Of special note, out of the 33 incoming female freshmen athletes, women's soccer brought in 15 new recruits. "We want the women's program to continue to grow and develop," Tysinger says.

"As the college brings in more women, we'll have more female athletes and possibly more women's sports down the road. We must have the numbers and have the support and facilities. When the time comes to add a sport, we want it to be viable, not just something to check off from a 'to do' list."

In her new position, Tysinger has a multi-faceted role. In addition to helping the female coaches administratively, she assists the overall department with compliance, marketing, promotional, game management and fund-raising responsibilities.

"I'm not here just for the women's program, but for all of The Citadel's athletics programs," says Tysinger. "We are one team with the same goals and objectives, not a number of separate entities." While it seems that after more than a century of intercollegiate sports at The Citadel that have witnessed change after change, it is refreshing that some things haven't changed at all.