Benedict College President Roslyn Clark Artis and Director of Athletics Willie Washington announced that Benedict will add men's volleyball as its 15th NCAA Division II sponsored sport, beginning with the 2020-21 season.
The addition of men's volleyball was announced at a press conference on Wednesday morning in the DHS Campus Center, along with the announcement that Benedict will receive a $150,000 grant from First Point Volleyball Foundation and USA Volleyball to support the new program.
"It is only fitting that the HBCU of the year should take the lead, as we always do, in new initiatives," said Artis. "We are pleased to announce that Benedict College will be among the six schools in the SIAC conference who will begin men's volleyball in the 2020-2021 academic year. The SIAC will be the first historically black college and university conference to start men's volleyball. It is fitting that the HBCU of the year be in that number."
"This will offer more opportunities for more athletes to come in and be a part of an already great program," said Washington. "Because of the grant we are receiving, that grant is going to make it possible that we can build the program and sustain the program."
Washington announced that Gwendolyn Rouse, Benedict's women's volleyball coach for the past 32 years, will assume the additional duties of coaching the men's team.
"It will really be an easy transition due to the fact that I am currently a certified volleyball official for boys and girls," Rouse said. "For the last five years I've been working with boys as well. I appreciate the opportunity and look for great things to come from the men's volleyball program."
The men will begin playing in the 2020-21 season. Along with the other five schools starting men's volleyball in the SIAC - Central State, Kentucky State, Paine, Morehouse and Fort Valley State - men's volleyball is played by nine Division II schools in Conference Carolinas, including Erskine (Due West), Limestone (Gaffney) and North Greenville (Tigerville) in South Carolina. Four schools sponsor the sport in the South Atlantic Conference, including Coker (Hartsville). The season begins in January and runs through March, with the NCAA Tournament in April.
Wade Garard, CEO of First Point Volleyball Foundation, was also on hand to announce the grant. A total investment of $1 million is being made ($600,000 from First Point Volleyball Foundation and $400,000 from USA Volleyball) to support the six colleges and the league in starting the sport.
"It is a pleasure to be here and partnering with USA Volleyball to provide a $150,000 gift to Benedict College," said Gerard. "There is some momentum here and it is fun to be a part of that momentum. Boys volleyball is by far the fastest-growing team sport in America for boys. Forty-one high schools in the state of South Carolina called into an info call a year ago expressing interest and wanting to learn more about starting boys volleyball. There is momentum here in the region as well. We see this as the beginning of big things in Columbia, South Carolina and the region, and our partner, Benedict College, is a big part of that."