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Regional campus athletics: in a league of their own

By Marisa Palmieri

Most people recognize Ohio University's athletic teams as the Bobcats, but what many do not know is that Ohio also encompasses the Cougars, Hilltoppers, Panthers, Tracers and Trailblazers. Each of Ohio University's five regional campuses supports its own intercollegiate athletic program, with as many as eight teams per campus.

The Eastern Campus men's basketball team celebrates winning the 2000-01 ORCC state tournament. Photo courtesy Ohio University Eastern Campus."We're a pretty attractive conference for regional schools because we offer a lot of stability," says Ohio University-Lancaster athletics director Jeff Whitehead, commissioner of the Ohio Regional Campus Conference.

The conference supports seven sports, including men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, volleyball, baseball and golf. Whitehead projected that softball will be added in the next few years.

Ohio University's regional campus athletic teams -- with the exception of Ohio University-Southern -- are a part of the ORCC. In addition to the Ohio University representatives, the conference includes regional campus teams from Ohio State, Miami, Akron and Cincinnati.

Ohio University-Southern, along with several other schools, competes against ORCC members, but it is not yet a member of the conference. To be a member, a school must support teams in men's and women's basketball, volleyball and its choice of a spring sport. "[OU-S] is trying," says Ohio University-Eastern athletics director E.J. Shodzinski. "They're just not where they need to be yet."

ORCC member schools that cannot support the four required sports face suspension until they reinstate them. A suspended team may still compete, but is not allowed to win a conference championship, Whitehead says. Ohio University-Chillicothe has been suspended for the last year for failing to support a women's basketball team. Michelle Pitstick, Ohio University-Chillicothe's new athletics director, says they will have a women's basketball team this season. "I'm excited about fielding a women's basketball team," she says, "so that we're back in good standing in the conference."

Men's basketball -- the ORCC's inaugural sport -- continues to be the most popular sport of the 31-year-old conference, according to Whitehead.

While some recruiting takes place, it is done on a small scale, Pitstick says. "This year I spoke at freshmen orientation," she says. "Some students didn't even realize we had athletic programs."

Athletic scholarships are not available to students at regional campuses. "Basically, we can offer an opportunity to play," Whitehead says.

"[Our athletes] are students first and they play second, just because they want to have fun," Schodzinski says. He adds the ORCC's level of competition is comparable to that of Division III colleges.

The regional campuses often play contract games against NCAA or NAIA teams, especially in men's basketball, even though the ORCC is not a member of either association.

"The original intent of our conference wasn't to look for national recognition," Whitehead says. "It's really to give students the ability to interact with other students and to round out the educational experience."

Ohio Univ.
Ohio Univ.
Ohio Univ.
Ohio Univ.
Ohio Univ.
ColorsGreen and whiteGreen and whiteGreen and whiteGreen and whiteGreen and gold
FacilityThe Shoemaker CenterThe Ney CenterThe GynasiumLocal high school gymThe Littick Hall Fitness Center
Athletic DirectorMichelle PitstickE.J. SchodzinskiJeff WhiteheadHarry WeinbrechtDoug Pollack
Sports offeredBaseball, basketball (M & W), golf, volleyballBasketball (M & W), golf, volleyballBaseball, basketball (M & W), golf, tennis (M & W), softball, volleyballBaseball, basketball (M & W), golf, tennis (M & W), volleyballBaseball, basketball (M & W), golf, softball, volleyball
ORCC member?Suspended, expected to be reinstated in winter 2003YesYes, except softballNoYes, except softball

Marisa Palmieri is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.
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