Launch six new sports and it’s bound to be a busy school year.
That’s what Umpqua Community College did in the last 18 months under athletic director Craig Jackson’s visionary tenure, and the Riverhawks are just getting started.
Men’s and women’s cross country, wrestling and obstacle racing all joined the athletic department’s offerings this past school year and the Riverhawks are bringing back track and field and baseball programs in the next year.
“I don’t even know where the year started,” Jackson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think, even just taking the few things that are done, to have some success on the court in the postseason and then add sports and everything we have going on, it’s been a successful year.”
UCC’s women’s basketball team was the highest achiever on the field of play, losing in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship game, but the athletic department as a whole brought more attention to the campus and its community than it's experienced in several years.
Umpqua hosted the NWAC Southern Region cross country championships as a first-year program. Obstacle course racing is the first collegiate team of its kind in the nation and hosted multiple events on a challenging course built by hand.
Former Douglas High athlete and coach Jeremiah Robbins — who won three national championships in five years at Lewis-Clark State — has been hired as the baseball coach and an assistant athletic director. Alan King has been hired as UCC’s cross country and track coach; King spent the previous four years at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. Both are on campus, recruiting athletes and building their staffs.
“They’re working on their staffs and I’m sure they’re talking to people who they want in their program,” Jackson said.
When the athletes and staff gathered for an end of year bowling event, Jackson recognized what has been a whirlwind year on the campus.
“I put historic in a tweet the other day, and it was in a lot of ways with new programs and new starts,” Jackson said. “We got good results in the classroom and we’re excited about it.”
Since entering dead week before finals, Umpqua has been resurfacing its gym floor and new, brighter LED-based lights are slated to be installed.
UCC’s new logo has also been added to the floor, which will have a whiter sheen when the Riverhawks hit the court again.
“We needed it done,” Jackson said. “We’ve had years and years of that oil base and it was yellowing. We’re putting in new LED lights to save some energy costs and brighten it up and give it a new look.”
By the fall of 2019, when the baseball team will enter its first school year of full participation, UCC will have 10 men’s and women’s sports, plus women’s volleyball and baseball.
That may not be the last of the athletic additions.
“We’re going to continue to look at stuff,” Jackson said. “We added all these first and foremost as enrollment initiatives, so if we can continue to bring in the kind of student-athletes and have the success we want, we’ll keep looking at those things.”
Jackson is also involved in helping the efforts to bring artificial turf to Legion Field and is looking into raising funds to resurface the track facility at UCC.
“We’ve got to look at that as soon as possible,” Jackson said of the track. “We have to figure out things for them to compete and practice and we have a few other projects, so it’s going to fun.”