NEW "HOOSIERS" TALE FEATURES ROBERTSON, NEW HOCKEY PROGRAM
By Al Mattei
Amy Robertson started her field hockey career out in Colorado before coming East for her college and post-collegiate years.
In 2000, however, she is moving a little closer to home. Robertson, of late an assistant coach at Wake Forest, is the new head field hockey coach at Indiana University. The school had a field hockey program in the early 80s until the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took over women's athletics formerly sanctioned by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).
"There are alumnae there, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for this program," Robertson says. "There is excitement that it's finally been added as an NCAA sport.
The state of Indiana's field hockey tradition is one which is on a bit of a rebound recently, as evidenced by DePauw University's bid to the 1999 NCAA Division III championship. Still, there are more colleges than secondary schools playing varsity field hockey in the state of Indiana. It is a trend which Robertson sees continuing in the near future.
"There is a possibility that a couple of other Midwest schools may add programs," she says. "Possibly Notre Dame, possibly Wisconsin, another Big Ten school."
She knows that her sport cannot supplant basketball as "Indiana's Game," at least not immediately.
"I had never been to Bloomington before; and all I heard about Indiana University was Bobby Knight, like everybody else," she says. "And they have a great men's soccer program. But how exciting is it to build your own program, with your own ideas?"
The addition of field hockey at Indiana University can be seen as part of a trend in collegiate athletics which is occurring more than 25 years after the passage of the 1973 Civil Rights Act. Colleges which have found themselves far out of compliance with Title IX regulations tried, in the late 80s and early 90s, to cut low-participation men's sports like wrestling and gymnastics.
Some colleges, in the mid to late 90s, added high-expense, low participation women's sports like rowing to their varsity programs to show Title IX compliance. However, schools like Indiana have found that their long-range Title IX compliance plans include high-participant sports like women's soccer and field hockey.
Robertson is finding that the Indiana University athletic department has been more than willing to accelerate its development plan for the sport of field hockey; at first, the administration was only going to offer one scholarship for the fall of 2000.
"I told them, 'Here's the situation: if this program wants to get off the ground with any hope in three years, it will be necessary to be fully-funded in four years,' " she says. "I will have two scholarships to start with, but I will get three if my administration says that I can get that really talented player."
The Hoosier hockey team is going to play a full Big Ten schedule and will also benefit from a light travel schedule. The team does not venture to California or the East Coast in 2000.
"The furthest we travel this year is Penn State," Robertson says. "It's almost less traveling than we had at Wake Forest (in 1999)."
It is almost an ideal situation for Indiana field hockey: a gentle startup, full funding by 2003, and more local participation in the sport than when the competing Iowa varsity program began in the 1980s.
"There are players out there, but they haven't been tapped, and they don't have as many opportunities to play at a high level," Robertson says. "It's a Big Ten program, a lot of potential, and we're arguably in the most equal conference in the country. And (Indiana) is pushing for more equality in women's athletics."