More changes are coming to a campus that seems to be in constant change. Over the past few years they’ve added new dorms, new classroom buildings, a new university center, and a new vocational building. It’s nice to see what I assume is mostly state money coming to Marquette, but at the same time, it’s fair to wonder how all this development affects tuition rates. Maybe a lot. Maybe not at all.
Regardless… they’re not standing still over there. This time it’s the athletic department getting the attention.
Previous, and new NMU Athletic Director Rick Comley was on the radio with Mark and Walt in the Morning the other day and shared some of the plans. The new ideas still need final approval, but Comley seems optimistic.
Start with basketball moving out of the Berry Events Center and over to a new configuration in the Vandament Arena, currently the home of volleyball.
Moving b-ball off the ice rink offers several advantages, not the least of which is making the Berry dedicated solely to hockey. Changing it back and forth to accommodate the two sports is costly. And not having to facilitate hoops opens up a lot more available ice time. Makes sense.
Even though the Berry offers a big school, faux fieldhouse kind of setting for basketball, the crowds are too often dwarfed by an arena designed for Division I hockey. And the cager coaches apparently love the idea of having their own place to play and practice.
Comley seems confident that the changes will be well-received. “If it gets approved and done, it’s going to be very nice.”
There’s also a change coming to the ice sheet at the Berry as well. Comley hopes to bring the sides in 3 feet to make the rink more appropriate for the college game. If you recall, when they built the Berry they put in an Olympic size rink to accommodate short track speed skaters. Fast-forward to today and those Olympic hopefuls have skated off, along with just about all the other Olympic training programs at NMU.
With just 3 months under his belt since his return, Comley is ushering in some changes he hopes will bring renewed interest to Northern sports.
He acknowledges that attendance for both football and basketball has been “poor,” while support for Wildcat hockey is slightly better at “decent.” Putting butts in the seats is a common challenge in the world of Division II sports. Northern’s attendance figures aren’t much different than those of our league counterparts, and unless your program has national relevance, it’s hard to maintain local interest. As Yogi Berra once said, “If the folks don’t want to come to the ballpark, there’s nothing you can do to stop ‘em.”
Northern’s Division I hockey program benefits from a hockey-centric community, but there’s nothing like a consistently winning program to keep the locals interested.
The Berry Events Center, after some initial complaints about cramped seating and no alcohol, made some welcomed changes and has evolved into a pretty inviting place to watch a game… alcohol included.
Some of the proposed changes have been in the works for a while, but it’s reasonable to think that Comley has had a positive influence with regards to athletic department upgrades. He’s been there and done that, and now he’s back doing it again. In addition to upgrading facilities and handling everything that comes across the AD’s desk, he’s also in the process of hiring a new football coach. Welcome back, Rick.
With everything that happens around here now, the Wildcats, regardless of the sport, will never again be the only game in town. But, just like we should appreciate having a relevant institute of higher learning in our midst, we should also appreciate all the extras, like collegiate sports, that come with it.
Championship Game Today!
As long as we’re speaking of sports… we’ll remind you of today’s Division 6 High School Football Championship game featuring the Negaunee Miners vs Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Kickoff is at 4:30 and you can watch the game on Bally Sports or listen on the radio at Sunny 101.9, or log in to their live stream available at sunny.fm.
Play-by-play guy Mark Evans said last week’s victory in the snow against Reed City at Gaylord was a great example of a team “gutting it out” against a tough foe in extremely difficult conditions.
Regarding the Miners in today’s championship, against a team with an impressive resumé, Mark says, “They’re going to give it their best shot. They’ve got a really tough opponent, but don’t count Negaunee out of this one.”
If you can’t catch the game on the tube, you won’t be disappointed in the call you get from Evans and Negaunee homer Gregg Nelson. Evans has carved out his place as a very capable game announcer, and, along with Nelson’s Negaunee pedigree, they give you exactly what you’d hope for from a local radio broadcast.