On Sept. 14, the Bob Jones University Athletic Department announced the addition of two intercollegiate athletic programs. BJU will be adding a shooting team as well as a track and field team for the 2015-2016 academic year.
In the spring of 2013, a student presented the idea of a shooting team to Dr. Mike Wilkie, a professor in the criminal justice program at BJU, but the idea took time to gain momentum and support. Early this summer, the BJU Board of Trustees gave its final approval for Neal Ring and the athletic department to pull the trigger and begin the new program.
The shooting team will be in great hands with the leadership of Dr. Wilkie, a current firearms instructor and former chief of police for the city of Acworth, Georgia. This past spring, Wilkie traveled to Georgia to observe the national competition of the Scholastic Pistol Program. As he watched, he knew BJU would fit in well with the competition.
“If you can shoot it, there is a sport for it,” says Wilkie. The Bruins will have the opportunity to compete in many different events, but they will start with pistol competition. Wilkie hopes the program will grow quickly to allow for more events such as rifle shooting.
The shooting team will begin as a club team for students, faculty, staff and alumni. Eventually, the new program will be the first intercollegiate team from Bob Jones University to compete against NCAA D1 schools. Wilkie sees the shooting team as not only a competitive event, but also as an opportunity to show Christ to other schools that compete against the Bruins.
The new track and field program will be under the leadership of current cross-country coach Landon Bright. The team will have competitive events beginning in the spring of 2016. The program will start with only long distance events, but Bright envisions more events as the program progresses.
“The goal for adding track and field is to give the student athletes the opportunity to compete in an official manner in the spring,” Bright said. “The two sports are synonymous, and it is rare to have just a cross-country program. We have had a few athletes who would have qualified for the national championships time wise, but haven’t been able to because it hasn’t been an official sport. This first season we are going to really focus on the distance event. The 800m, 5,000m, and 10,000m are events that we will focus on. We may do some 400m events and relays.”
Despite the shooting team not competing at the intercollegiate level until next school year, many fans and supporters of BJU athletics are already excited to support both of the new programs. Only time will tell if the new teams can achieve their potential, but the programs seem to be on the right track.
These programs will provide BJU more opportunities to use sports as an avenue to share the gospel. with others.