As Bishop State Community College prepares to enter its 90th year of providing educational opportunities to local students, the Wildcats’ athletic program is looking to the future with the addition of new sports.
Trenton Eager is starting his second season as Bishop State’s athletic director and women’s basketball coach. He recently sat down with Lagniappe to discuss the plans for his school, which has four campuses across Mobile.
“We are adding golf for the fall of the 2017-18 academic year,” Eager said. “Ronald Davis, who has been a computer information system instructor here for 25-plus years, will serve as the coach. He is very familiar with the local golf scene.”
Davis will be in charge of starting the program from scratch. Scholarships are established for eight players on each squad. Davis currently has scholarships left for four women and two men.
“We are still recruiting the local area,” Eager said. “We want this to be a great addition to the Bishop State athletic family.”
Community college officials are also planning to add competitive cheerleading to the mix. Julie King, who has been at Bishop State for at least a decade, will coach the team.
“There is a lot of interest in competitive cheerleading,” Eager said. The University of Mobile recently formed a squad, and promptly won its conference title. “Mobile is big in cheerleading, volleyball, soccer and tennis,” he continued.
Eager said Bishop State wants to keep adding similar sports.
“We have a great swimming facility here at Bishop, but when we looked into forming a team we learned the closest community college that we could compete with was four hours away,” he said. “It just did not work out logistically.”
However, sports such as volleyball and track are still on the drawing board.
“We are weighing the outcomes,” said Eager, who came to Mobile after coaching at Alabama Southern Community College in Monroeville. “Athletics are a big part of enrollment and student success. It really adds to student life on campus.
“People gravitate to sports. We are a community college, so we also want to attract members of the community.”
Benefit of athletics
Eager said you only have to look at the University of South Alabama’s vision to add football a few years ago. The decision has generated a lot of interest for both USA and its sports program.
“Their football team has really been something,” said Eager, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville State and a master’s from West Florida. “It has helped the school in so many ways. While we are not adding football, it shows the impact sports can have.”
Eager again pointed out how being a community college assists in recruitment.
“We first go after the local kids from Mobile County,” he said. “Then we fill in with others who can help the program.
“Let them represent Mobile for two years and then go on to senior college. They can come to Bishop State, get a quality education and a quality athletic career.”
Bishop State — which was founded in 1927 as the Mobile branch of Alabama State University — has previously fielded basketball teams for men and women, fast-pitch softball and baseball. The last sport mentioned will have a change next year with the recent hiring of James Hattenstein as the new coach.
An alumnus of Bishop State, he played for the Wildcats from 1990 to 1991. He went on to finish his college career at USA. After school, Hattenstine played professionally with the Mobile BaySharks and Grand Forks (North Dakota) Varmints. For the last 20 years, he has been a member of coaching staffs at Bishop State, University of Mobile, Mary G. Montgomery, Daphne, LeFlore and Citronelle. Hattenstein, who holds two master’s degrees, was the head coach at LeFlore and Citronelle.
“We are very excited to have Coach Hattenstein taking over the baseball team,” Eager said. “Being a former Bishop State player, he is familiar with the Mobile area.”
Bishop State has veterans in charge of its other programs. J.D. Shelwood is starting his 25th year in charge of the men’s basketball team, after having coached at LeFlore for 26 years. Angelo Archible has been leading the women’s softball team more than 20 years.
“We also have a lot of volunteers who help,” Eager said. “There are quality people who have bought into our mission.”
Bishop State constructed a new baseball and softball complex at its Southwest Campus a few years. While improvements continue there, additional work is planned.
“We are renovating our gym and the locker rooms at our Main Campus,” said Eager, who played in several minor league basketball programs in the United States as well as in Argentina, Finland and Uruguay before starting to coach. “We want to take our athletic facilities to the next level. Kids look at that when they are being recruited.”
Of course, all of this growth requires funding. Eager said there are plans for this as well.
“We are in a good place for our budgets to give us the best on-field experience possible,” he said. “We are considering the cost of scholarships, equipment and salary for coaches.
“We have a five-year period where we are looking to expand. I must give credit to Bishop State’s president, Dr. Reginald Sykes. He is all-in for athletics. He was right in the mix to implement golf.”
While the plan to add a swim team did not come through, that does not mean growth has stopped.
“We look at the feasibility of all sports that we might add,” Eager said. “Volleyball is a potential. We need to see how far we must travel to compete. We are looking at possibly adding it next.”
Eager said he wants all Bishop State students to be proud of being Wildcat supporters.
“As we expand athletics, it expands the college,” Eager said. “Our programs add to enrollment and to the retention of students. I envision the Bishop State athletic program is going to grow as Mobile grows. We are Mobile’s community college, and we want to give our city and county something to be proud of.”
To learn more about the athletic program, visit www.bishop.edu. Eager can be reached at 251-405-7034 or via email at [email protected].