HLG moves to add two new sports
HANNIBAL – Two new sports and a tuition increase are looming just over the horizon at Hannibal LaGrange College (HLG). The school’s trustees unanimously approved two proposals that would bring men’s wrestling and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field to campus as well a 6.9 percent increase in tuition and fees and a new building.
Currently, the 1,100-student Baptist institution fields teams in 10 sports: baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross-country, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s soccer. The new teams would compete in the NAIA conference.
HLG President Woodrow Burt said the new programs would increase enrollment, revenue and student opportunity on campus.
“One of the ways that we grow as an institution is through the addition of programs, either academic, professional programs or as in this case, an athletic program.”
Burt and Vice President for Collegiate Affairs Thomas Hufty offered several arguments for adding a wrestling program.
According to HLG’s research, there are 244,000 high school students who participate in wrestling programs nationwide while there are only 300 colleges that offer the sport. The school hopes that statistic will translate into a higher enrollment.
“We anticipate a minimum of 30 new students the first year, with 20 being residents,” Burt said.
“It is one of the least expensive programs to add,” he said.
Assuming 30 new students and 20 being residents, the school estimates that after scholarships, coach and trainer salaries and equipment costs of approximately $289,000, they will reap revenue to the tune of $462,000, hopefully netting more than $150,000 the first year alone.
One hurdle the new program would have to overcome is overcrowding at the current sports complex. In order to ease that strain, the board also approved a proposal to accept an offer from a former wrestler at Southern Illinois University, Gerard Secker, who has pledged to build a 5,000 square foot facility to house the HLG’s outdoor sports practices, locker-rooms and training. Secker is a farmer in Hannibal and lives within sight of campus. He is also a member of Fifth Street Baptist Church.
Wrestlers will compete in the Maybee Sports Complex. The Secker Field House will be located on the north end of Blackwell Soccer Field on the west side of campus.
Hufty explained the anticipated benefits of an outdoor track and field program.
“We added cross country a few years ago and we’ve found that when we’re recruiting students in cross country, between 80 and 90 percent of the time they ask if we have track and field as well,” he said.
HLG has not offered a track and field program in the past because they lack the track facility, though they do have some “good neighbors.”
“Dr. Burt and I met with officials at Hannibal High School and shared our dream,” Hufty said. “To summarize, we couldn’t have asked for a more positive response. They were not only positive about us starting a program, they were positive about us using their facilities – at no cost. That fit into our budget.”
Like wrestling, the university said they anticipate track and field to yield a profit the first year as well, adding at least 20 residential students.
“There are a lot of kids out here that are not D-I or D-II (NCAA) material, but they will make great NAIA players,” Daniel Hale, chairman of the board, said. “If we can give them a Christian education along the way, that’s a win-win situation.”
There are 14 NAIA track and field programs within a five-hour radius of Hannibal.
Trustees also approved a 6.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for the 2007-2008 academic year. Room and board remains the same.
Full-time tuition per semester will go up $422, from $6,110 to $6,532 per semester. Southwest Baptist University, HLG’s top competitor, costs $6,650 per semester’s tuition.