A student body is a critical aspect to any university. Without students, a university has no way to sustain itself– and for smaller schools like Clarke University, students are of an even greater importance. The student body here at Clarke is made up of nearly 70% athletes according to the university’s website, suggesting that Clarke needs to market themselves primarily to athletes and attract them to the athletic programs at Clarke. This year, Clarke finished a construction project on two new practice fields that football, soccer, and lacrosse all use.
These two fields have jump-started the four-million dollar project for athletic facilities on the Clarke campus, according to Athletic Director Curt Long. The new turf fields, just finished this August, are great recruiting tools for Clarke Athletics. Additional upgrades to Clarke’s sports facilities include a weight room, fitness area, and locker rooms constructed on the ground level of the Kehl Center. Various athletic programs are available, including volleyball, soccer, golf, baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, football, lacrosse, track and field, and soccer.
So how does Clarke University actually manage to reach athletic students not only across the U.S. but internationally as well? For Kevin Hunley, a senior baseball player, Clarke jumped onto the starting right fielder’s radar when Dan Spain, the head baseball coach, sent him an email. Inside the correspondence, Spain said exactly what Kevin wanted to hear from a potential college.
Being from a large city where his high school actually had more students than Clarke University, Kevin said, “Coming to a school like this was different. As a high schooler you always see college as some new massive experience. Although Clarke may lack the student population, they make up for it in other ways.” Kevin was attracted to Clarke’s smaller size and, through the encouragement of Coach Spain, decided to experience Clarke and all it had to offer.
While explaining the differences in between his hometown of Glendale, Arizona and Dubuque, Kevin also stated, “There are kids everywhere in the U.S. looking for a place to continue their dream.” All it took for Kevin to commit the next four years of his life to this university was an encouraging email from Coach Spain. Kevin believes the west coast has many students just like him waiting for an email like that from an encouraging coach offering an enticing place to play.
In regards to his academic. He stated, “They really want you to succeed and are willing to work with you. The professors want you to be successful and try to help in any way they can.”
Senior pitcher Chelsea Fogarty has attended Clarke University all four years of college. Chelsea was recruited by a coach that is no longer in employment at Clarke. She spoke about this coach recruiting her starting in her sophomore year of high school.
The persistence of this coach and the fact that, “he made me feel important” encouraged her to become part of the Clarke Pride. She visited three times before verbally committing. Chelsea said, “Other schools had my attention, including Tennessee and a Division Two college in southern Illinois.” The coach that began recruiting her was her main reason for attending. In addition, the nursing program, the friendly Dubuque community, and being close to home helped seal the deal.
Clarke’s athletic teams have been more successful in the past few years, promoting Clarke in an even more positive way. “Athletics here at Clarke are a major component to the success of the university. With more success, we’re going to draw more attention from future athletes,” stated Chelsea. Being in the north, Clarke does present some cold temperatures for athletics. The baseball and softball fields are located 20 minutes from campus, which can be a strain for some students.
Chelsea stressed the pain it can be to drive 20 minutes off campus to a practice field, and with some students not having cars, they can run into difficulty with carpooling and transportation at times.
The student athletes appear to support each other well and the school spirit and comradery seem to overcome even the coldest of temperatures and distance to fields. Both Clarke athletes talked about the connection they felt to the coaches recruiting them. Relationships and connections appear to be a convincing component for athletic recruitment at Clarke University according to senior soccer player Trevor Kennedy, a men’s soccer player at Clarke. Clarke University and the wider area of Dubuque both offer a strong sense of connection and community, drawing student athletes from many corners of the U.S. and abroad.
By Austin Mettica