Adding any sport for men to an NCAA Division 1 athletic program is unheard of in today’s collegiate environment. On October 19, 2022, Marshall University, located in Huntington, West Virginia, broke this trend by announcing the reinstatement of its men’s track and field program.

Beginning this school year, they will compete in eight indoor and seven outdoor meets, including the Sunbelt Conference Championships. This occurred due to the vision of the athletic director, Christian Spears, the support of the Board of Governors, and the leadership of Brad Smith, University President. The state now has a Division 1 school that will give student-athletes the opportunity to compete at the highest level of NCAA athletics. West Virginia University and Marshall both discontinued their programs at the end of the 2003 season.

If this resurrection is done correctly, not only Marshall, but the collegiate track and field community could benefit from this groundbreaking decision. Considering that they have one of the finest indoor facilities in the country, tremendous support from its administration, and an enthusiastic alumni base, there is no reason that the Thundering Herd track program cannot succeed. Aside from this, the many other schools that no longer field men’s teams will have a blue print for reinstatement.  This will allow them to witness first hand an increase in enrollment, more opportunities for minority student athletes, positive publicity for their schools, and a stronger incentive for high school participation in track and field. It will also contribute to the improvement of their women’s track and cross-country programs. Marshall proved the latter to be true, by recently having their best showing in any league that they have been a member since the early ‘90’s.

The future of this revitalized program will depend on many things. Among them will be selling it to the athletes, coaches, and the public. The relationship with all forms of the media will be vital to this process. Track and field is notorious for not using the many outlets effectively to promote the sport. I can say, without a doubt, in the programs that I have led; this relationship was a key to the success of our teams.

It is my most sincere hope that the newest addition to the track and field community succeeds in setting an example that other schools can follow, which in turn will motivate them to seize the opportunity that this school’s administration has established. Are you listening, Mid-American Conference members – Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ball State, and Ohio University?

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell


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