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Ride and Learn: Cumberland University
 
By Imelda March
Date: 3/16/2011
Ride and Learn: Cumberland University
 

We continue to explore the world of U.S. based collegiate cycling programs and have ventured into the State of Tennessee with a stop at the small and private Cumberland University.

Cumberland University is a private, independent, coeducational, liberal arts institution with five academic schools, three graduate degree programs and a non-credit Continuing Education Program. The university was founded in 1842 and is located in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Cumberland University competes in the Southeastern Collegiate Conference (SECCC) a recognized conference within the USA Cycling Collegiate organization. The Southeastern Collegiate Conference (SECCC) is one of 11 collegiate conferences around the U.S.

Coach Tim Hall is a product of Cumberland University and he leads the cycling program. He was gracious to provide a wealth of information about the current program and his plans to beef up recruiting collegiate women for his Cumberland University Cycling Team.


2010 USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships, Team Competition, 4th place. (from L to R), Alex Parks, Ryan Sullivan, Coach Tim Hall, Alejandro Padilla, Ben Salibra. Photo provided by Cumberland University

DP: Who is an ideal candidate for Cumberland University academic and cycling program?

Coach Hall: Our ideal candidate is a student intending to excel in the classroom. I emphasize academics during the recruiting process with the prospect and parents. Once they are here I focus on class attendance and connect daily on their academic progress. The recruit must see themselves being happy on our campus and within the Lebanon community. With only 1,000 full time undergrads and a student to professor ratio of 16:1 it makes for a small tight knit community. Appreciating the value of close relationships and being comfortable with the family atmosphere is critical. Cyclists must be willing to commit themselves to the program and their teammates. For many young riders this is their first taste of being on a true team with set expectations.

We accept riders of all ability levels who race mountain bike, track, cyclocross and road. I would welcome walk-ons from within our school, but with such a small enrollment we are limited; especially considering 45% of those are already scholarship athletes. We are willing to invest time and energy into athletes making the progression through the categories. Rider development is a big a focus of mine as a coach; not just on the bike, but in the classroom and within our community to become strong leaders once they graduate.

DP: Does Cumberland University offer collegiate cycling scholarships?

Coach Hall: Yes, we do offer athletic scholarships for cycling. Cumberland ’s President, Dr. Harvill Eaton, was one of the early adopters to offer cycling scholarships back in the fall of 2004. Not only that, but our university rewards outstanding high school grades and test scores with academic scholarships. To my knowledge, most varsity programs have to utilize every type of institutional resource available to make collegiate cycling affordable for families.

DP: If so, what are the cycling scholarship distributions levels? What is the average scholarship value?

Coach Hall: The range of cycling scholarship we offer is as low as $1,000 up to a possible full scholarship. However, the average scholarship is approximately $6,000 on an annual basis. Talent is just one variable to consider when determining how much a rider may receive. I take into account their potential contribution to the program, the quality of their character and leadership ability, as well as their family financial needs.

DP: Is equipment provided to the athletes or are they expected to contribute to the costs of purchasing their equipment (i.e. bikes, tires, rollers, uniforms, racing shoes, etc)

Coach Hall: We do not provide bicycles or wheels for riders, but they do receive quite a bit of support in other ways. I fully kit them out with two pair of bibs and jerseys, arm warmers, gloves, vests, skin suit, long sleeve gear and a thermal jacket for winter. I also provide everyone with some casual clothing for when we travel. I also keep plenty of tubes for flats and provide a full set of tools for them to work on bikes. We have several team wheel sets for the pit and wheel truck, as well as several team trainers to warm up. Our newest addition to the program is a 16’ custom trailer that mounts 20 bicycles with plenty of room for gear. Throughout the year I usually end up buying several chains, tires, cassettes and other small equipment pieces as they are needed for big events such as nationals.

DP: Typically, a B.A. /B.S. take about four years to complete? However, do all your athletes finish their degrees on time? Or is the average more like five years as they enjoy their environments and student life?

Coach Hall: We are just beginning to see regular graduates each year. All of our early graduates were transfer students who took less time because they had already earned quite a few credits prior to joining us. This spring will be our first class of riders who have been with us all four years. Our future average will be four years because I require they stay on course for graduating on time. For us to maximize a return on our resources our student-athletes have to be taking full loads each semester of 15 to 17 hours. This not only helps me stay within budget, but it also helps the family save a tremendous amount of money. It doesn’t make financial sense to only take 12 hours a semester when you’re paying for 18. However, I would certainly work with an athlete who needed more time if they were with the national team and traveled a lot, or had health issues; so I will be realistic yet not allow an athlete to be slow footed in their academic progress.

DP: Overall, what is your cycling program graduation rate? Coach Hall: I am unsure of our rate at this early juncture in our program’s development. I took over the job in the fall of 2005, which was the second season of existence, and inherited a roster that was quite unstable, the first couple of years. I do know by the end of spring 2011 we will have graduated 10 total riders since the program began in 2004, and in the spring of 2012 we will have another four graduates. We’ve finally achieved roster stability the last few years, and in the future should see a graduation rate in the 85% to 100% range.

DP: Do you actively recruit? If so, is there a part of the country where you focus more of your recruitment efforts?

Coach Hall: Recruiting is a big part of my job as head coach and it takes place year round. Most of our athletes have come from east of the Mississippi River, but we have also had success in Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Washington. We have always had a roster full of international athletes from countries such as Brazil and Canada, and we now have an Australian and a Guatemalan on the roster. We currently have riders not only from Tennessee, but also New York, Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Oklahoma. Our diversity has been strength of ours and it is something I actively work on maintaining.

DP: What differentiates your cycling program from the others?

Coach Hall: As the full-time cycling coach here at Cumberland my athletes are my entire focus. Individual attention on a daily basis is there to help with cycling development as well as lead and guide them through the obstacles of college life. I get involved in their lives and engage them, hold them accountable, and motivate them to become their best in everything they do – on and off the bike. The strength of personal relationships is a value we hold dear all across the campus of Cumberland University, from the coaches to administration to faculty. I sincerely believe this is our greatest strength.

Another area I feel sets us apart from other varsity programs is the level of commitment from our administration and athletic department. Our president is one of our biggest supporters, and Ron Pavan, our Athletic Director, has been a great advocate as well. They have consistently improved our budget each year to help make us competitive. Increased scholarship budgets, along with increased travel and equipment budgets now allow us to compete in all four disciplines in collegiate cycling.

The level of funding we currently receive is significantly better than when I began this job. We keep a close eye on our overall spending of course, but the administration is committed to us going to all four national championships.

For recruits, we offer the golden opportunity to prove their worth on a national level by achieving an individual or team national championship. We are currently ranked third in Division 2 after being ranked # 1 earlier in the year. We are just now beginning to taste national success and our kids are realizing the opportunity before them. I believe we provide not only the fastest path to success but also the clearest. Rather than fight for a roster spot a rider can more quickly make a name for themselves here at Cumberland University. Roster spots for nationals in mountain bike, track and cyclocross are especially wide open at this time. Our road roster is more competitive, but still in need of more depth.

Our biggest opportunity for growth and current recruiting emphasis is on the women side. (See Female cyclists in demand at Cumberland) We do not have any women right now, but we have had two graduates come through the program. One was a national champion, Stephanie Hannos, and the other was a podium mountain biker in Karen Amundson. I am sure women see our roster and wonder if they are welcome, and the answer is absolutely yes! My primary objective in the next two to four years is to cultivate the women team and have a roster of at least 4 to 8 women competing in all four disciplines.


2010 USA Cycling Cyclocross Championships,Team Competition: 11th place. (from L to R), Jeremy Chambers, Logan Luker, Alejandro Padilla, Ben Salibra. Photo Credit: Cumberland University

CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY CYCLING TEAM ACCOLADES

DP: Please tell us about all the team’s accolades that have been earned along the way.

Coach Hall: We have attended both mountain bike and road nationals every year since 2006, and in 2010 attended track and cyclocross nationals for the first time. In Division 2 during 2010 we were ranked # 4 in September, # 1 in October, and are currently ranked # 3 leading into road nationals in May 2011. 2010 team results: 4th track nationals,14th mountain nationals, 11th cyclocross nationals. In 2005 Stephanie Hannos won the Division 2 women national criterium championship and overall omnium national championship. In 2009 Thacker Reeves placed 2nd in the Division 2 men national criterium championship.

To learn more about the Cumberland University cycling team and contact coach Tim Hall please visit Cumberland Cycling Team.

To learn more about Cumberland University academic programs, please visit Cumberland University

QUICK FACTS

Women: 57.79%
Men: 42.21%

Type: Private
Average Tuition: $15,550
Location: Southeast U.S. Region
Setting: Small Town Setting
Size: Small (Under 2,000 Undergraduate)
Academic Calendar: Two regular semesters, a May interim term and three summer sessions
(Source: Cumberland University website)

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About the author: Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling issues and general peloton ramblings. Imelda is an experienced racer who also holds an MBA and is a marketing strategy expert.


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