Photo by Joel Thomas Photography
Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania announced last week that the men’s ultimate team will be moved under the college’s athletic department.
Last week, Messiah College announced that the men’s ultimate team will now be under the purview of the school’s athletic department, entitling them to all the benefits and recognition that comes with that.
Messiah Ultimate’s coach, Charlie Hoppes was thrilled with the change, saying that the shift to being under the Athletic Department can only help the already successful team moving forward.
Coach Hoppes, a proud Messiah alum, took the reigns of the team in 2010, following the D-I/D-III distinction within USA Ultimate. Since then, the team has won the West Penn Conference in 3 of the 5 years it’s been in existence (2012,2013, 2015), and finished second another year (2014), finishing 2nd (2015), and third twice (2012, 2013) in the Ohio Valley Region. Hoppes is also the coach of Patrol, Philadelphia’s premiere men’s club team, and served as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Spinners during their playoff run last season. Throughout all these coaching experiences, Hoppes considers Messiah his ultimate home.
Athletic department oversight has been a goal of Messiah’s ultimate team for a long time. The college decided to do some restructuring with their club sports and ultimate landed with the athletic department.
“The athletic department has really embraced us and made us feel we are a part of the athletic community, and a part that they are proud of,” said Hoppes, “For a college with the history of on-field achievement that Messiah has, that’s a huge thing. As far as I know, this is largely unique in the ultimate community. I believe some teams have a somewhat similar distinction, but what sets this apart is how pleased this incredible department is in welcoming us into the fold.”
Messiah’s NCAA teams have long been able to draw players who want to play at a very high level, and who want to play on a Christian team. The success of the teams here is legendary in Division III–16 NCAA team titles, 7 NCAA individual titles, well over a hundred conference championships, a major league baseball player, all sorts of fantastic accolades. To be able to turn to prospective students and say, hey, we have a fantastic ultimate program and by the way we are supported by one of the best Division III athletic departments in the country, that’s going to be a tremendous draw.
“This is so awesome!” said Spinner and Messiah Alum Dustin Damiano, “It’s great seeing ultimate grow in reputation and become more a part of the college instead of kinda fending for itself. I’m really excited to see how the team grows and I hope this becomes a trend with other colleges.”
Some concern may be heard from ultimate purists that affiliation with athletic departments forcing teams to lose their uniqueness or sense of individuality that ultimate is known to encourage.
“Messiah Athletics are letting us run things the way we always have.” said Hoppes “We are still going to be a hard-nosed team that flies around on D and makes big plays, same as we have for 11 years. We are still going to have that hilarious, warm and inclusive culture that you can only get on a college ultimate team. The difference now is that we have the enthusiastic backing of the best D-III athletic department in the country. There are only positives.”
As ultimate gains more exposure in the world of sports, we hope to see more high schools, colleges and universities following the example of schools like Messiah. Access to athletic departments provides ultimate teams with the same resources, recognition and support that other college sports have access to across the country.
For more information about the change, check out the announcement from Messiah Athletics.