Morthland College continues to grow athletic program
Morthland College's sports department has continued its growth this summer.
The Christian college — which held its first classes in August 2011 in a West Frankfort storefront, according to its website — opened its new athletics building earlier this year and soon will start its first varsity football regular season.
The development of the athletic department has had an effect on enrollment, Director of Athletics Buddy Foster told SW Illinois News in an email interview.
“It is no secret that athletics has been instrumental in the growth of the student body here at Morthland,” he said. “Like most other small colleges, we rely on our roster sizes to help continue the growth.”
Foster said that the college will field varsity teams in football, volleyball, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and softball, with wrestling as a club sport.
“We have had several talks about adding other sports,” Foster said. “Right now, we have decided to focus on the seven that we have and get solid foundations set for all of them.”
Last season, the football team went 1-4-1 in its inaugural campaign. This year, under first-year head coach Michael Popovich, the team will have 41 players and open against Robert Morris University-Peoria at 2 p.m. Sept. 3, reports wsiltv.com.
Foster said getting to varsity level is the next step in the growth of the program.
“We are still very much in our infancy, but the opportunity to play on a Saturday we hope will eventually become an event for West Frankfort, Franklin County and hopefully the rest of Southern Illinois,” he said.
A site for this season's opener had yet to be determined, reports wsiltiv.com. That leads into one of the challenges for a young athletic department that Foster cited: lack of its own facilities.
“It is hard to schedule practice and games when you are using someone else's facilities,” he said. “The City of West Frankfort and the school district have gone above and beyond to make their facilities available to us, but at the end of the day their needs take priority and rightly so.”
Yet a big step was taken this year, when the athletic department moved into the former Galaxy Fitness Center building on the corner of Parkhill and Chestnut streets in West Frankfort. The building contains men's and women's locker rooms, a training room and a weight room, and offices for the coaches and staff.
“The athletic building gives our athletes a place they can now call their own,” Foster said. “This is a big recruiting tool for us.”
Other athletic department projects include developing plans and a timeline for the development of an athletic park and building a new football field in time for fall 2017, Foster said. The school also is developing a new athletic website, he said. The site should be running by Sept. 1, with streaming of many Patriots games expected to be available.