MACON, Ga. (School Release) - Mercer University Director of Athletics Jim Cole announced Monday that the school will add women's track and field as a varsity sport beginning in the 2013-14 school year. Long time Mercer cross country head coach Ryan Bailey will assume coaching responsibilities for the team.
"We're very excited about adding women's track and field as our newest interscholastic sport," Cole said. "As with other sports we've recently introduced, we commit to the addition with full-force and expect to compete at the highest levels in the near future."
Women's track and field will pair with football as two new sports for the university in the 2013-14 academic year. Their addition brings the school's number of intercollegiate programs to 17, comprising eight men's sports and nine women's sports.
"I am very excited and proud to have the honor of establishing Mercer's first ever women's track squad," Bailey said. "I feel it is a historic development for the school and anticipate a lot of interest from the very start. I am grateful for the opportunity to be the coach to begin such an important new chapter in Mercer athletics history."
Mercer's women's track and field team will compete in outdoor competitions during the spring season. The sport is one of 17 sponsored by the Atlantic Sun Conference, the league Mercer will join in its first year of participation.
Other schools sponsoring women's track and field with Atlantic Sun Conference affiliation are East Tennessee State, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, North Florida, Northern Kentucky and USC Upstate. In 2012, 141 schools fielded NCAA Division I sponsored outdoor women's track and field teams.
Since the start of the 2011-12 academic year, Mercer has shuffled its alignment of NCAA Division I sponsored sports, adding men's lacrosse in 2010-11 and women's sand volleyball in 2011-12. The university also dropped rifle after the conclusion of the 2010-11 year and has announced plans to add women's lacrosse in the 2014-15 academic period.
After working from 2002-2010 to complete the requirements and course-work through USA Track & Field - with Dr. Joe Vigil (a world-renowned endurance expert and four-time Olympic Coach) as his mentor and preceptor - Bailey was certified as a Level III Endurance Coach. This is a distinction held by only a small group of coaches nationwide.
In addition to his endurance coaching credentials, Bailey is Level I certified for all event-groups and is certified as a Level II coach in jumping events.
Bailey is also involved with the USA Track & Field Coaching Education program as a Level I Instructor for all event groups and a Level II Instructor for endurance events. Further, in 2010 he was tapped by the USATF Head of Coaching Education, Terry Crawford, to serve on the Instructor Training Course (ITC) faculty. As a member of the ITC faculty, Bailey plays a part in the training of Level I instructors and school directors. Bailey is also the National Coordinator for USATF Level I schools.
As a high school track and field coach, Bailey tutored a dozen individual state champions and was the recipient of numerous coaching awards, including five consecutive GISA Coaches Association Coach of the Year awards spanning from 1997-2001.