New track team bucks trend to cut college sports

PNW’s announcement that it will add a track and field team next year comes as many of the nation’s colleges and universities are reducing their athletic programs.

One analysis by researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Michigan found that COVID-19 budget problems forced many schools to eliminate teams. The research found that 78 colleges and universities eliminated 300 teams between March and October 2020.

The fact that Purdue Northwest is expanding athletics has Austin Warner pretty excited.

“I’ve been wanting a track & field team ever since I got here,” said Warner, who became head coach of men’s and women’s cross country in 2016. “Other schools in our conference (GLIAC) have had one, so when I got the news, I was ecstatic.”

Warner will oversee the track and field program, in addition to cross country.

Both sports have been a big part of Warner’s life for years. During his college career at Trinity Christian College in Illinois, he was named a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national qualifier three times in cross country, and four times in track and field as a distance runner. Before joining PNW, he won the 2016 NCAA Division II Men’s Track and Field Assistant Coach of the Year award and helped guide Nova Southeastern University in Florida to two NCAA National Championships.

You cannot have a team without athletes to compete. PNW prides itself on putting the student BEFORE the athlete.

To prepare for next year’s launch, Warner is already focused on recruiting.

“I have started conversations with potential students from high school and junior college,” he said. “Students want to come here for the strong academics and affordable cost that Purdue Northwest offers.”

Last year, the university’s athletes had an average GPA of 3.43, a record for the school.

“We’re going to build this thing from the ground up and have a program that people are going to be proud of five, 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Warner said.

The team will compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and most meets will be in the Chicago area. The Pride’s home field is still being determined. Local high schools have been used for practices.