By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
When the name change takes effect in the Fall 2013 semester, no one will be happier than Athletic Director Steve Rotta. Two years ago, he sat down with Ann Arbor Athletic Director, Dave Brandon to see how the two departments can connect.
“We were looking for opportunities for our two departments, to make connections, and actually we started talking about all three of our campuses working together,” said Rotta. “One thing led to another and pretty soon we were talking about the opportunity to support each other as one institution and the potential opportunity there might be in a name change for consistency and we just went from there.”
Rotta said there was some great feedback, mostly positive, but also some dissenting opinions as well. He was originally not for the name change, but after some convincing from some athletes, both current and former, the University of Michigan-Dearborn AD was convinced after some ideas that this would be great for campus, he was all for it.
He’s really excited for the student-athletes themselves when the name change starts in the fall. They don’t have a “plan” in place on how it will be implemented, as that will be discussed over the summer and once fall hits, there will be a sort of “Big Bang” on campus for the release of the name and the marketing aspect as Wolverines.
As for the uniforms and equipment aspect of the name change, there won’t be many changes, unless the jersey actually has the name “Wolves” on it. The only one that Rotta could think of was a Volleyball jersey, “so they won’t be using that,” said Rotta.
He’s been the Athletic Director for eight years at UM-D, and before that, was a volunteer coach for 10 years, so he’s seen some of the great history the athletics on campus has to offer.
What Rotta wants everyone to know is the facts of the name change, not just what could, or might happen. “The partnership and the name change itself, doesn’t have money tied to it. You might be wondering, “…if you’re going to be the Wolverines, are we doing this for financial gain?” “The answer is no,” said Rotta.
With the name change, their isn’t an expectation that Adidas, the official athletic apparel company of the University of Michigan isn’t promised to UM-D. “At present, we don’t have an official deal with Adidas,” said Rotta. “We have had great interactions with Adidas and we would be interested in using them as a vendor.”
Along with the name change, Rotta is hoping the new student housing across the street will bring increased athletic activity to campus. “With the residence hall across the street coming online, the University’s invested some money in athletics and recreation to try and support some of those expected changes,” said Rotta.
The added 500 students across Evergreen at The Union at Dearborn should create more athletic activity on campus, or so Rotta hopes. “We expect some more offerings,” said Rotta. “We expect that intramurals will pick up (too).”
Recruiting is also something that Rotta expects to see a huge impact because of the combination of the name change and dorms. “I think having the residence hall so close, it does open our doors for a lot of the out of area folks that didn’t before because they don’t have to have a car.”
Because of the dorms, they’ve had several recruits already interested in coming to UM-D including some from Illinois and Iowa, among a few others.
The name change won’t cause any new programs to come to campus to become varsity sports, but that isn’t out of the question as long as things come together for Rotta and the Athletics department. “I would definitely not say that I would be closing the door (on new varsity sports), we’ve got some facility issues to manage so that we could bring in new teams,” said Rotta.
“I think we’ve got some growing to do with our varsity program before I would entertain the notion of bringing some new teams, but I would certainly say that, if we can grow, if we can make some strides, I think there’s definitely opportunity.”
Finally, with the name change and dorms, Rotta stresses the need for student to let some steam off and participate in athletics and recreation at any level. “Our role in athletics and recreation is so important to the mental well-being of our campus. Without a healthy body, the mind doesn’t function.”
Rotta is looking forward to the name change, but there is still much to be done over the summer. One thing is true though; the name change, along with the dorms across the street will bring renewed vigor to the athletics side of campus as students, both new and old will become Wolverines for the first time.