Since its launch in the fall of 2018, the Shepherd University Athletic Club (SUAC) has gained some serious momentum toward their vision of elevating Shepherd University athletic programs and facilities through targeted financial support and improvement projects.
Of its initial long-term goals, SUAC has already scored three new additions to Shepherd’s athletic facilities, including the installation of new field turf at Rams Stadium, a $50,000 upgrade to the Butcher Center weight room, and a $20,000 upgrade to the men’s and women’s tennis facility playing surface.
A volunteer membership organization, SUAC is currently comprised of about 140 members. Anticipating continued growth, Chauncey Winbush, vice president for athletics at Shepherd, is working with the board of directors to kickoff new initiatives spanning this month through the coming spring. One of these, Thankful to Be a Ram, is a friendly competition among athletic programs to see who can bring in the most donors. Winbush reports membership totals for fiscal year 2019 of about 360 and a goal of reaching 540 members for FY 2020.
When asked what excites him most about SUAC, Winbush shared that “Ninety percent of the board of directors is made up of former SU student athletes that had a great experience during their time on campus and have decided to give back to our university with their time and financial support.” Board vice president, Tripp Lowe, agrees that, instrumental to their success is “… the overall dedication and strength of our board, founding members, and overall membership.”
SUAC goals for 2019 also included continued efforts to brand the organization—getting the name out in front of students, parents, alumni, and community members. Through initiatives and campaigns, SUAC has also forged solid community business partnerships, including the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, the Rumsey Tavern, Bavarian Brother’s Brewing Company, Jefferson Distribution, DJ Rick Rohn, and the Shepherdstown Rotary. These partners have provided space, event support, marketing assistance, and have been instrumental in generating the funds and progress that have enabled SUAC to evolve.
In reflecting on some of the more pressing needs of Shepherd athletics, Winbush sees the importance of a grassroots approach considering the possibilities that “… if we had two thousand supporters donate a hundred dollars on a consistent basis to Shepherd athletics, that two hundred thousand dollars in additional support would have a tremendous impact on the landscape of Shepherd athletics and the University as a whole—it would be a game-changer.”
Lowe acknowledged that Shepherd University athletics “… continue to operate in a scholarship deficit behind most of our competition. Another pressing need would be to raise enough capital to build a student athletic performance center. This is a much-needed asset for continued growth of all sports and Shepherd University.”
On this year’s wish list for facility improvements are stadium lights, upgrades to program locker room facilities in the Butcher Center and Ken Boone fieldhouse, a hitting facility for baseball and softball, and new press boxes for the soccer and football stadium.
For Winbush, Lowe, and other contributing members of the SUAC, the future is bright and within reach. “We have the right makeup from a board standpoint and a goal standpoint,” stated Winbush, “and we need to continue to grind, continue to set goals, and continue to work on getting the word out about SUAC.”By Wendy Baracka, LICSW