By Jim Workman
Assistant Managing Editor
The Golden Eagles will fly in Beckley, beginning this fall.
On Wednesday, UC-Beckley announced its plan to add athletics, starting with the 2013-14 school year.
“We are very pleased to field sports in Beckley beginning this fall,” said University of Charleston Regional President Jerry Forster. “Intercollegiate athletics is a vital piece of campus life. The recruitment of student-athletes to UC-Beckley is very important to building a strong academic institution.
“To rebuild on the on-campus numbers and enhance the student experience, we’re excited about athletic programs playing a role in that,” he added.
The first teams to wear UC-Beckley jerseys will be men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
Other sports are being explored for the future as well.
The recruitment for coaches and student-athletes will begin immediately, according to Dr. Forster.
Because UC-Beckley is a satellite campus of the University of Charleston and falls under the same accreditation as UC, Beckley-based teams this fall will initially be of junior varsity level, competing under NCAA Division II standards.
Application by UC-Beckley to the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), the athletic governing body that Mountain State University competed under, was denied. It was a lengthy process which began last fall, shortly after UC announced its intentions to participate in a teach-out plan for MSU students and ultimately take over the Beckley campus following MSU’s closing Dec. 31.
The rejection came this week.
“Our central administrative offices are in Charleston,” Dr. Forster explained. “The reason we are a satellite campus is for efficiency purposes. We don’t have the unnecessary administrative overhead. Our accreditation is under one umbrella.
“We’re not an independent institution (at UC-Beckley). That’s what shot (the NAIA application) down. It was a full blown application.”
Mountain State University enjoyed athletic success, especially in men’s basketball where the Cougars became a national power at the NAIA level, claiming the national championship in 2004 and competing at the national tournament on a regular basis.
“They were a powerhouse in the NAIA and a point of pride for everyone in the Beckley area,” Dr. Forster said. “The sports we’re adding today are hopefully just one part of something really special we feel like we are building in Beckley.”
UC-Beckley currently offers 12 academic programs, ranging from associate to master’s degrees.
The Golden Eagles are in discussions with the YMCA of Southern West Virginia and plan to play and practice soccer at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex. The basketball teams and the volleyball team are currently planned to be on campus at Van Meter Gymnasium.