By Chris Mackowiak
As we arrive deep into November and the holiday season, the fall sports end, making way for the winter sports to begin.
The sun now rises on a new front of team sports focused on achieving the ultimate prizes: a conference title and then a national championship.
In the fall 2016 season, one team was able to accomplish one of these: Salisbury field hockey won their fourth consecutive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Championship. After having only one loss in the regular season (3-2 at eventual National Champion Messiah College), the Sea Gulls had their eyes set on the ultimate prize in an attempt to add another under the belt of SU head coach Dawn Chamberlin.
On a dreary, cold and windy afternoon in Geneva, New York, just north of the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, the dream was not meant to be as Salisbury fell 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion to Tufts University in the NCAA semifinals.
While tears were shed on the field after the game, those tears remind us, as the Salisbury
community, of how much these student-athletes put into their play each day. Those tears displayed what it means to be a Sea Gull.
One thing that makes Salisbury University different from other schools is the unity and passion that marks our flock of Gulls. After all, there is only one school in the NCAA that
can proudly squawk as Sea Gulls.
That unity and passion is something that I get to see first-hand each day in my position. The best part of my position is the opportunity to talk to players and coaches off the
field. I get to know them and the stories that they carry with them on the field.
This intimate quality of a smaller team and a smaller school is something you cannot find at a Division I program very often. Division III programs bring out the special bond between the student body and the student-athletes.
I remember back to the open house for the new Sea Gull Stadium last spring. There were so many murmurings among the crowd and student body about Salisbury University Athletics making the move to Division II or even Division I. I honestly laugh at this sometimes.
I hear it so often now with all of the new renovations going on around East Campus. A brand new softball facility will be opening this spring for a team that will compete for a national title yet again under SU head coach Margie Knight.
With the completion of this soccer season, a new press box and grand stands are in the works for next season. For baseball, a new field will soon be built with all the amenities where the intramural fields are currently.
All of this brings excitement to the student body and fan base—and rightfully so. However, it does not mean we are headed to a new NCAA division. Honestly, we badly needed to upgrade our athletic facilities. There is something special about the old-time feel about some of these facilities, but they just do not make it when you take a look at what our programs have accomplished and where they are headed.
After all these facilities are renovated or newly constructed, one remains—Maggs Physical Activities Center. But do not worry. I have the feeling that the idea is in the works somewhere in the university. SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach alluded to it at a Coaches’ Luncheon earlier this season.
Just like the new Sea Gull Stadium, SU administration will only build the best and will not settle for anything else. If anyone has visited Christopher Newport’s fieldhouse, I am sure that they will try to top that.
All of this will simply make the Division III school experience better. Switching the school’s NCAA division completely changes the atmosphere, when athletic scholarships come into play. Over the years, I have been able to understand the NCAA’s students-first position. What makes the atmosphere and unity here at Salisbury so special is the strength of our athletes as just that—student-athletes. Academics come first for them, while their on-the-field abilities are their hobbies and workplace out of the classroom.
I have heard so many stories from athletes in different programs here that they came to Salisbury because “they had my major,” “I loved [this] academic program,” or “the professors spoke out to me.” The add-on at Salisbury is its fantastic group of head coaches that lead the athletic programs and preach academics first.
Here at Salisbury University, we are not focused on living up to the professional sport hype; instead, we are focused on living up to the great American hype, creating the next generation of well-rounded people.
I can say first hand that the student-athletes make up much of the well-rounded and genuine people on campus. Their work ethic is one of the central cores of our campus community.
The balance between the academics and athletics is truly something that makes Salisbury University so special and part of why the university moved up from the name ‘Salisbury State.’
Division III brings that special balance, and that means this is the NCAA division we are destined to stay at. Salisbury has grown to become one of the top athletics programs in Division III across the board. It is because of the people, students and coaches that form this community.
The moments that define us are when we come together: sophomore wide receiver Sean Rowland’s 92-yards kickoff return for an opening touchdown in the first football game of the season, or Salisbury women’s volleyball’s miraculous 28-26 fourth set victory to stay alive in the CAC Semifinal match against Christopher Newport.
Those moments develop from our Division III identity, which truly makes us the Sea Gulls.
As we move into the winter season, I see this in our basketball teams, who have started on a high note in the non-conference slate. Look for the passing of the torch to continue among the athletic successes, despite East Campus lying dormant until the end of February.