CHICAGO (CBS) — While many colleges are cutting back on sports, tiny Roosevelt University in the Loop is building an athletic program from the ground up in a big way.
The Women’s basketball team is ranked 14th in the country in NAIA. CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke has more on the architect who is putting the Roosevelt Lakers on the map.
Roosevelt University’s Mike Cassidy is a full service athletic director. He came on board in 2009 with the challenge of building an entire athletic department from scratch by himself.
“Everything from hiring coaches, first picking which sports programs to sponsor, a timeline for how we were going to implement the sports, finding a conference, finding an athletic association,” says Mike Cassidy, Roosevelt’s athletic director.
Roosevelt took a 20-year timeout from sports, but after a shift from being a commuter school to a traditional university with younger students, athletics are back. They now boast 12 sports and over 200 athletes, but it wasn’t an easy sell at first.
“You couldn’t introduce them to a teammate, couldn’t walk them out the back and show them a facility, everything we pitched them was a vision. It was something written on a board,” says Cassidy.
“I just thought it would be interesting because I knew I was going to be able to make history and I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” says basketball player Casey Davis.
“It was a chance to start your own program from scratch. That’s a once in a life time opportunity that I definitely could not pass up,” says Robyn Scherr-Wells, women’s basketball coach.
One of the biggest challenges for Mike to start up a new program was they had no facilities. After two years of busing to various gyms around the city, they now have a brand new 28,000 square-foot fieldhouse.
“We didn’t sugar coat anything. We told them that we don’t offer scholarships, but we also told them if you persisted and stayed with it and believed in what we’re doing as a team the rewards would come,” says Joe Griffin, men’s basketball coach.
“To see them all come together and rally around Roosevelt University really kind of showed me that we’ve really created something special here,” adds Cassidy.