SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy converse.edu) — It’s no secret Converse is growing and implementing some monumental changes in 2021. With the July 2021 name change from college to university and the fall 2020 shift to co-educational, Converse is looking into the future and driving our region vibrantly forward while still honoring our rich history. A significant element of the model change includes launching the first men’s sports teams.
Converse has a rich history of competitive NCAA Division II athletics programs and currently has 13 women’s sports teams: acrobatics & tumbling, basketball, cross country, equestrian, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.
In 1894, Converse was one of the first progressive colleges in the country to implement women’s sports, some of which included tennis, bowling, gymnastics, and a variety of other activities. In 1899, five years after the launch of the women’s athletics teams, Converse began encouraging and hosting basketball games for women as well.
Converse will continue building and growing elite women’s teams while also welcoming male athletes to the unique and diverse tapestry of the Valkyries. Beginning in 2021, each corresponding to its own season, the NCAA Division II men’s teams will include: Bbasketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, and track & field. In addition, Converse will transition to a co-ed equestrian program (IHSA) and add an inaugural eSports co-ed team.
“The male student-athletes who have recently signed with us are excited to be a part of a brand new program,” said Chris Sawyer, Converse assistant athletic director for athletic communications. “It’s a chance for them to be a part of history and shaping the future of men’s athletics at Converse. There are opportunities for scholarships, and there’s an opportunity for everyone to play right away.”
“With the addition of men’s sports, we will continue our momentum in Conference Carolinas, one of the best conferences in the region. Our existing women’s Division II teams are getting the opportunity to play Division I teams, and they are succeeding and gaining victories,” remarked Sawyer.
“We are anticipating making big waves next year in all of our men’s teams, but the basketball, soccer, cross country/track & field and eSports teams especially are already gaining rapid momentum. Our head men’s basketball coach, Ryan Saunders, comes to Converse with an impressive record working in Conference Carolinas.
Our head men’s soccer coach, Rob Miller, has close to 300 collegiate victories. Rob has taken teams to a number of championships over the past 20 years and has had a very successful career. We are thrilled he has chosen to come to Converse to start the inaugural men’s soccer program.”
“We are also excited to begin co-ed eSports next year,” Sawyer said. “eSports is one of the biggest things happening right now in collegiate athletics, and this is just the beginning. We are anticipating eSports to grow rapidly over the next few years. eSports will add so much to Converse and bring in a whole new dynamic. Our head eSports coach, Max Wood, is already recruiting for the 2021 games and we’re looking forward to a great season.”
Converse is eagerly anticipating the positive growth next year will bring with the institution’s forward progress, the strengthening of the women’s athletic teams, and the beginning of men’s athletics teams. In 2021, Converse will continue providing innovative opportunities for its students and drive the Upstate region vibrantly forward.
To explore athletic opportunities with Converse, athletic scholarship opportunities, and to view each sport’s schedule, roster, and news, click here.