MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Southern New Hampshire University Department of Athletics and Recreation announced Thursday that it plans to expand its sport offerings over the next three academic years. SNHU will add women’s golf immediately to begin play in the fall of 2013. Field hockey, a sport SNHU sponsored from 1977-1981, will return in the fall of 2014 as a varsity offering, while women’s outdoor track and field is slated to begin varsity competition in the 2015-16 academic year. Finally, contingent on interest, the University plans to add a women’s bowling team in 2015-16.
The new sports will create participation opportunities for 75 new student-athletes at Southern New Hampshire and the school will now sponsor a total of 20 varsity sports, 17 of which will compete for current Northeast-10 Conference championships.
Below is a look at each of the new programs:
Women’s golf is one of the fastest-growing sports at the NCAA Division II level. In the past 10 years, a total of 86 Division II institutions have added the sport, an increase of nearly 97%, as 175 schools across the country sponsor women’s golf at the Division II level.
Southern New Hampshire becomes the third Northeast-10 Conference institution to offer the sport, along with Le Moyne College and Merrimack College. The NE-10 does not currently sponsor a women’s golf championship, as six schools are required to sponsor a sport per conference bylaws. However, just 10 other Division II and Division III institutions in New England offer the sport, none in New Hampshire, and SNHU joins Dartmouth College as the only other women’s golf program in the Granite State.
The women’s golf team will be coached by current SNHU men’s golf coach Matt Arvanitis. A former standout student-athlete for the Penmen and a member of the SNHU Athletic Hall of Fame, Arvanitis has served as the Penmen men’s golf coach since 2005 and guided SNHU to NCAA appearances in 2006 and 2009, while also having an individual qualifier in 2010.
Tryouts for current SNHU students for the women’s golf team will be held in April. Information on those tryouts will be released at a later date.
The addition of field hockey is a restart of the program, as SNHU fielded a team from 1977-1981 before dropping the sport in favor of women’s soccer. This will mark the fourth former sport brought back to the North River Road campus, as men’s and women’s tennis and men’s golf returned to SNHU in the 2000-01 academic year when the Penmen joined the Northeast-10 Conference. A total of 56 high schools in the state of New Hampshire sponsor field hockey.
Southern New Hampshire, which currently has an active club field hockey program, will become the 12th team in the Northeast-10 Conference, joining Adelphi University, American International College, Assumption College, Bentley University, Franklin Pierce University, Merrimack College, Saint Anselm College, Saint Michael’s College, Southern Connecticut State University and Stonehill College. LIU Post also competes in Northeast-10 field hockey as an associate member beginning in the fall of 2013. Northeast-10 teams have won Division II national championships in the sport in 2001, 2005 and 2010 and are consistently nationally ranked.
A search for a head coach for the field hockey program will begin in the spring with the plan to have a coach in place in August in order to begin recruiting for the 2014 season.
WOMEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Track and field has long been a staple at New Hampshire high schools, as in the 2012-13 academic year, a total of 77 Granite State high schools will field an outdoor track team. While SNHU does not currently have a track and field facility, a feasibility study is slated for the near future to determine future athletics and recreational facility needs at the University.
Southern New Hampshire will become the 11th Northeast-10 school to sponsor women’s outdoor track, joining Adelphi, American International, Assumption, Bentley, Franklin Pierce, Merrimack, University of New Haven, The College of Saint Rose, Southern Connecticut and Stonehill.
Bowling has been one of the fastest-growing NCAA championship sports since the organization first sponsored a championship in 2004. A total of 61 teams are competing in 2012-13, a 50% increase from just 10 years ago. Bowling conducts a National Collegiate Championship, meaning that SNHU would likely be competing against institutions from all three NCAA divisions.
A majority of schools that sponsor the sport are in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the country. There is currently only one other school in New England sponsoring a varsity bowling team, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Adelphi University is currently the only other Northeast-10 institution that fields a bowling team.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) introduced a co-ed bowling championship in 2012 and currently 12 high schools across the state compete in the sport.
Southern New Hampshire University boasts one of the most competitive Division II programs in the country. Penmen teams routinely compete in the postseason, having earned a total of 52 NCAA berths in 10 different sports. Men’s soccer won the 1989 national championship and has made a total of 10 national quarterfinal appearances, while the men’s basketball team has advanced to six “Elite Eights”. In 2011-12 four Penmen teams appeared in the NCAAs (baseball, men’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis), with baseball winning the East Region title. Thus far in 2012-13 both Penmen soccer teams appeared in the NCAA tournament, with the men capturing a regional title.
Individually, SNHU student-athletes have twice been named National Players of the Year and have been named All-Americans a total of 80 times. Academically, the Penmen have had 13 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, and 60% of SNHU student-athletes were named to the Northeast-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll in the fall of 2012 for achieving at least a 3.0 GPA in the fall semester.