Western Nevada College is back in the business of offering women's athletics. And the school has hired a legendary coach to direct the new program.
WNC announced Monday that it will offer a women's softball team, with the inaugural season to be held next spring in 2009. Dick Allen, who coached softball and basketball teams at Wooster and Reed high schools to 10 state titles, is coming out of retirement to be the Wildcats' head coach. Allen was inducted into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
"We are pleased to announce the creation of an intercollegiate softball team, beginning in the 2008-2009 school year," WNC athletic director John Kinkella said.
"This new sport will replace the intercollegiate soccer team we were forced to deactivate last fall due to a lack of soccer teams in our conference.
"We want to offer local students the opportunity to continue a sport they love and have played all their lives. We also are mindful of the need to ensure that our intercollegiate athletics teams must offer equivalent experiences for both men and women student athletes."
With the addition of softball, the school becomes more able to meet Title IX requirements. The softball program will offer 24 scholarships, the same as baseball.
Allen said in his first season he will likely carry 16-18 players on his team, but could expand the roster in following years. The biggest difference between softball and baseball is not as many pitchers are needed. Only two or three pitchers are needed in softball.
WNC's softball team will compete in the Scenic West Athletic Conference and a lack of teams shouldn't be a problem. WNC will become the seventh softball team in the conference, joining College of Southern Nevada and five other schools.
WNC's baseball team also competes in the SWAC. The school will have to continue supporting both programs totally through private funds. Allen said he's well aware of the fund-raising task ahead. "That's part of the job description," he said.
"I'm excited. I'm really excited," Allen also said about taking over at WNC. "I think it's going to be a great opportunity for young girls to have a shot to play in Northern Nevada besides the University of Nevada. It's something I think that's going to
bode well for the Reno-Sparks, Carson communities and the outlying areas."
Allen said the Wolf Pack should benefit from WNC's program as players who aren't ready to play at Nevada can develop at WNC.
He coached for 31 years before retiring after the 2003 season. He retired after leading Wooster to its fourth straight NIAA 4A State title. Those teams featured pitcher Brianne McGowan, who went on to star for Oregon State.
Allen also coached Reed to three state titles in softball from 1988-1990 and then followed that up by coaching the Raiders to three state titles in girls basketball from 1991-1993. He led Reed's girls basketball team to a record 88 straight wins and was voted a Nevada High School Coach of the Year 10 times.
He also played guard for the Nevada men's basketball team and in 1972 earned the Doc Martie Award as the Outstanding Senior Athlete.
"I like challenges, and this is a very exciting challenge," Allen said. "It's an opportunity to start at the ground level and develop a program that will allow Nevada high school athletes a chance to play two more years and get an education. I want to see them further their career and perhaps get the chance to continue on at a four-year college."
For at least one year in 2009, WNC will play its games at Centennial Park. It's hoped in the near future, an on-site facility can be built on campus.
WNC will compete in the SWAC against CSN, College of Southern Idaho, Colorado Northwestern Community College, North Idaho College, Salt Lake Community College, and Snow College in Utah.
"Coach Allen is beginning the task of building our new team," Kinkella said. "He'll be out talking to area high school coaches this spring, and doing everything it takes to put together a competitive program."
Allen said he will be focused on putting a team together that will be competitive and will be ready to take the field in the fall in preparation for the 2009 season.
"Western is the right fit for me," he said. "I enjoy the area, and I think it's fortunate that girls who play softball through high school will have another outlet.
"The baseball team at Western has had great success and I'm hoping to follow in that tradition. I plan to run a goal-oriented program that recruits athletes who will do well in the classroom as well as be good teammates. Team chemistry is essential.
"I'd like to use this program to help student athletes prepare to possibly play at the university level, while they earn their degree."
Allen said he will focus on recruiting as many local players as possible. But he also wants to tap into the Las Vegas area which has a great deal of talent with close to 30 high schools.
He said there are a couple of players who are Millennium Scholars that he's already contacted. He also said two pitchers he'd like to pursue are Spanish Springs' Annalee Rubio and Reno High's Samantha Baker.