SOUTHFIELD — Let’s go Blue Devils!
Students at Lawrence Technological University will be chanting that mantra now that varsity athletics have been brought back to campus.
“We wanted to build more school spirit, and athletics is a big part of that,” said Kevin Finn, dean of students at Lawrence Tech. “And we’ve had too many students who decided not to go to Lawrence Tech and decided to go to other schools because they didn’t have the opportunity to continue their athletic careers.”
As a new member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the university has brought women’s volleyball, men’s soccer and men’s bowling on board at the school, joining the already successful men’s hockey team. Next year, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s lacrosse will join the fray.
“In higher education — we’re all fighting for the same students,” said Lisa Kujawa, assistant provost for enrollment management at Lawrence Tech. “But the privates in Michigan have to fight even harder. We want to make sure (we have) all the essential elements of what the students want. You want to be able to be a fan (of athletics) and watch it and cheer and go, ‘That’s my school!’”
In addition to academic scholarships, the university will now be offering athletic scholarships.
“Our goal is to recruit 150 athletes next year,” Kujawa said, adding that 30 students are currently enrolled at Lawrence Tech who wouldn’t have enrolled if not for the athletics being offered.
While the university has offered club sports — and will continue to do so — having a varsity program ups the ante.
“It brings a caliber of students both academically and athletically that club sports doesn’t,” Kujawa said. “It’s very exciting — the students are really into it. We have a lot of spirit here on campus.”
But this is not the university’s first foray into athletics.
“If you go back and you look at the history of Lawrence Tech, we actually had a variety of athletic teams,” Kujawa said.
In fact, the 1951 LTU men’s basketball team won the NIT championship, and six members of that team will be inducted into the newly created LTU Hall of Fame during the resurrected homecoming festivities this weekend.
One member of that 1951 team, Blaine Denning, went on to join the NBA and play for the Baltimore Bullets, and later performed with the Harlem Globetrotters. Denning, now 81, is thrilled to return to his alma mater to accept his induction into the Hall of Fame, Kujawa said.
“We have a long legacy of athletics at Lawrence Tech that started in 1930 and went on to the 1950s,” said LTU President Lewis Walker. “We’re really bringing something back as the continuation of a legacy that was interrupted at Lawrence Tech.”
Many students are thrilled to see athletics revitalized.
“It’s been great,” Finn said. “We had over 200 students in attendance at our first women’s volleyball game this year. It’s the first women’s team at Lawrence Tech to participate in a collegiate athletic. They’re setting history, so that’s wonderful; it touched all of our hearts. There are 500 people expected at our soccer match for homecoming. The students have been really excited. It’s been great to see that they want this as well.”
The university’s homecoming festivities will center around its men’s soccer game at 2 p.m. Oct. 1, when it hosts the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Events will include live music, outdoor yard games, a hot chicken wing eating contest, a beer tent, a car show, food stations, kids’ activities, a laptop computer raffle, and pictures with Blue, the university’s mascot.
Prospective students and their parents can learn more about the university, talk to teachers and tour the campus from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. prior to the game.
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