PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s sixteenth President, and Tara A. Owens, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation, announced today the addition of men’s volleyball to the stable of NCAA Division I teams sponsored by UMES for intercollegiate athletic competition. The official announcement was made at a press conference held on campus today.
With plans for a new men’s volleyball team to compete starting in 2025-2026 in the NEC (Northeast Conference), UMES becomes the first NCAA Div. I HBCU to add men’s volleyball and the 68th school to sponsor the fast-growing sport at the NCAA DI-II level. Several HBCUs in the SIAC offer the sport as well.
In addition, it was announced that a $250,000 grant from First Point Volleyball Foundation was obtained to aide in the establishment of the UMES men’s volleyball program. The $250,000 will be granted over a period of three years to assist with start-up costs and to provide funding to UMES Athletics as they provide scholarship support, facility improvements and other services to men’s and women’s volleyball athletes.
“We’re trailblazers in many ways at UMES” said President Anderson, “and this is yet another example of us carving a new path by adding men’s volleyball to our robust athletic program. With volleyball’s popularity on the rise everywhere it made sense to launch men’s volleyball. I think our community will join me in getting behind this dynamic sport, just as we have been strong supporters of our outstanding women’s team.”
In her second year as the leader of Hawk athletics, Owens is excited to bring a sport she has overseen before to UMES.
“We successfully added men’s volleyball at my previous institution and went on to have great success as Central State won a conference championship. The sport has a great amount of popularity and is a growing sport. I think our community will be blown away by the athleticism of this sport and the talent on the court,” said Owens. “It is especially exciting to have the opportunity to compete in the NEC. I would like to thank NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris for the invitation to play men’s volleyball in the NEC. We look forward to the growth of the sport on the college level and will encourage our fellow institutions in the MEAC to explore the possibility of adding men’s volleyball.”
Since 2016, First Point Volleyball Foundation has helped start 40 new college programs that are now funding 80 new scholarships in men’s volleyball that did not exist before. UMES intends to fund 4.5 scholarships which is the maximum allowed by the NCAA for DI-II men’s volleyball. A nationwide search for a head coach will commence immediately.
The Co-Founder & volunteer chairman of First Point Volleyball Foundation is John Speraw who is both the Head Coach of UCLA Men’s Volleyball and also Head Coach of the US Men’s National team. “We started First Point to support NCAA DI programs launching men’s volleyball and to provide more opportunities for young people to mature and develop through the sport… I am proud that our 25 volunteer Board of Directors has supported efforts to expand diversity and start men’s volleyball at HBCUs,” said Speraw. “I want to thank all the volleyball donors who have made this grant possible. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of philanthropy to the future of college sports especially Olympic sports.”
“We have been so impressed by the vision and leadership of President Anderson and Vice President Owens. First Point is honored to partner with an institution building momentum through athletics,” said Wade Garard, CEO of First Point Volleyball. “It is a pleasure working with Tara (Owens) again to provide opportunities for young men to have a student-athlete experience at an HBCU and to compete in men’s volleyball on a national stage.”
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