A Chat With UIS Athletic Director Kim Pate
The University of Illinois Springfield has come a long way with athletics in the past decade. Now a Division II school, UIS has added 6 programs in that time. That brings the total of teams to 11.
Yet, the expansion has also brought criticism from those who question if sports are part of the school's mission.
"My response is, it's part of education. Our student athletes are students first," said UIS Athletic Director Kim Pate. She says student athletes learn a lot of life skills, including teamwork, conflict resolution and time management.
UIS student athletes managed an overall average GPA of 3.17.
"We've been dedicating more resources and focus on academics," she said.
Pate also says it adds to campus life, giving students something to cheer for. She says it also provides a pathway to many students who might not otherwise go to college without an athletic scholarship.
UIS sports teams are primarily funded through student fees. Some state funding and external funding make up the rest. That includes donations and ticket sales.
Pate says with 16 schools in the conference, she puts UIS facilities in the top 4. The newest addition is a revamped baseball field, which will open this weekend, weather permitting. The baseball team had been nomadic, playing at various community sites.
Sports goes back to 1977 on the campus, with soccer. That program brought national success. UIS is launching a hall of fame. About 20 nominations have been submitted and the first class will be inducted in the fall.
Community support is on the rise, Pate said. "We have had record attendance in the Division II era. We have more than doubled our membership in our booster club," she added. "We still have a long way to go. We want to be Springfield's collegiate team."