By Justin Kollar, Assistant Sports Editor
“If ONU offered a bowling team, I would be one of the first to sign up,” sophomore track and field athlete Jon Hutchinson said. Hutchinson competes every Thursday against fellow teammates at Brookmont Bowling Center.
Junior Tom Zidek takes bowling as seriously as running.
“When I am bowling, something changes. I get super competitive, and it’s not just a fun jokey game anymore,” Zidek said.
Bowling could be rolling its way to ONU before long. Fellow NAIA schools have created teams as this sport begins to grow in the athletic association.
Bowling, however, is not sponsored by the NAIA. According to the NAIA website, “The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) has committed to work with the NAIA with the aim to increase the number of institutions sponsoring bowling, as well as plan out the future of the sport at the NAIA.”
The USBC was launched in 2005 and since then the organization continues to serve amateur adult and youth bowlers in the United States. Currently, USBC serves more than 2 million members and is the national governing body for bowling as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee.
As of May 1, 2010, 25 to 27 NAIA institutions declared sponsorship of men’s and woman’s bowling as a varsity sport. Since this time bowling in the NAIA has been considered an “emerging” sport. An NAIA sport must have 25 teams to hold an invitational tournament. Fifty teams are required to hold a national championship.
Bowling did not become a NAIA sport overnight. The first NAIA invitational took place in the fall of 2011. For the first invitational to take place the NAIA had to work alongside the National Administrative Council (NAC) to identify proposed legislative and policy changes: frequency of play and scheduling bylaws, rights fees for the national championship, qualification models and more.
For the past two years, ONU’s athletic department has had “many conversations” about bringing bowling to ONU, Atheltic Director Gary Newsome said.
“One of the major obstacles in starting a bowling program is when they bowl,” Newsome said. “Meaning their tournaments are Saturday to Sunday. ONU, with very few exceptions, does not participate in league matches on Sundays.”
Currently, on the NAIA level, there are over 40 schools that have started offering bowling as a varsity sport. Familiar schools include the University of St. Francis, Concordia University and Lindenwood University.
For now, ONU students will have to do as the runners do. Gather at places like the Brookmont Bowling Center, located two and a half miles away from school, which currently holds a league night every Thursday that offers three games for five dollars, shoes included.