“Community colleges that offer sports regard the athletics program as an integral part of the educational experience,” Hauser told the board. “Sports programs have been proven to enhance and strengthen student life, diversity, student mental and physical health and overall college unity. This is something we believe that our Gaston College students and the communities we serve in Gaston and Lincoln counties are looking forward to enjoy and support in many ways.
“As we began the process to put this plan and presentation together, one of our former students provided me with tremendous help and moral support,” he continued. “Leonard Hamilton, the head men’s basketball coach at Florida State University and a Gaston College graduate, has graciously provided me with professional insight and advice regarding this new venture that will reignite sports at the college.”
Hamilton, born and raised in Gastonia, played basketball for Gaston College back in the early 1970’s, when the college had sports teams. Since then, he has won many awards and accolades, including being named the 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Hamilton said he plans to keep supporting Hauser and the trustees with the new sports program, and he’s looking forward to seeing sports back at the college.
“As a first-generation college student, I struggled,” Hamilton recalled. “But having my teammates, college activities to attend and a social environment at Gaston College helped sustain me to go on to a four-year university and to complete a master’s degree. I then encouraged others to do the same: those who would have never dreamed they, too, could do it. Kids today are the same as I was then; just looking for an opportunity.”
Once the NJCAA program membership is approved, Gaston College will join Region 10. This grouping includes both Carolinas and southwest Virginia.
The Gaston College Foundation will work to secure intercollegiate athletic scholarships, engage in community fundraising and events and work hand-in-hand with the student athletes with community engagement events and activities. Hauser shared a variety of ideas for revenue generation to support athletics beyond student activity fees, bookstore revenues and excess fees. This is standard practice for intercollegiate athletic programs at North Carolina’s community colleges.
Future plans include engaging faculty, staffers and students regarding sports, including potential names for a mascot.
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