OPINION: Golden’s secret sauce: What the new prez could bring to athletics


Easton Thompson

Jay Golden, the new president of Wichita State University, answers questions from members of the press on Thursday, Oct. 31 in the Rhatigan Student Center. Golden previously served as the vice chancellor for the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement at East Carolina University.

Last Thursday, the campus community was introduced to Jay Golden, the university’s 14th president.

Golden, who comes from East Carolina University, stated in his opening press conference that the university’s secret sauce will be continuing “the legacy of late President John Bardo.” Golden was mainly focusing his speech on academics and the development of Innovation Campus, but what if statements hint at continuing Bardo’s legacy for sports as well?

There are a lot of different directions that Golden can go with the athletic department. In October 2018, Bardo said that he believed esports would be the next thing to add into campuses collegiate competition. He wasn’t wrong. On Tuesday, Wichita State is launching an esports lab in the Heskett Center to further the university’s place in the rising world of esports.

But Bardo’s sports aspirations didn’t stop there. While his No. 1 goal would be to bring back a football program, he knew it wouldn’t be possible. He hoped to instead pursue men and women’s soccer at WSU.

To Bardo, soccer would be a safe bet, but he didn’t want to bring it immediately because of the university’s recent move to the American Athletic Conference. He said he wanted soccer because of its growing popularity, and the even amount of women’s and men’s scholarships to meet NCAA Title IX needs.

“It’s possible men’s and women’s soccer,” Bardo said in 2018. “It’s gaining popularity in this part of the country particularly.”

Another reason he wanted the sport was to keep students occupied with sporting events since the school’s main sport, basketball, doesn’t start until late October-early November.

Bringing soccer to campus would be tricky though. Currently, the AAC men’s league has eight teams and the women have 10 total teams. Adding Wichita State, an odd-numbered school, could provide scheduling conflicts for the conference. Regardless, it still looks like the easiest route when adding a sport.

However, this isn’t Bardo’s choice — it’s Golden’s. So what other possibilities are there? Outside of possibly continuing Bardo’s legacy with soccer, two more sports come to mind: lacrosse and swimming.

You might be wondering, why lacrosse? Well, that is Golden’s favorite sport to watch, per a recent interview with The Sunflower. East Carolina, Golden’s former school, had women’s lacrosse and is a fellow member of the AAC. The AAC has six teams playing in their conference for the sport, but just four traditional members. Florida and Vanderbilt play in it as well, as nontraditional members who normally reside in the Southeastern Conference.

Adding lacrosse would be a little more difficult because of Title IX rules. Since the AAC doesn’t officially have men’s lacrosse, it could also be difficult to find another conference to join just for that one sport, similar to how Navy plays in the AAC for football, but not for basketball.

As for swimming, Title IX would be easier to accomplish with even scholarship distribution, but facility use would provide an issue. The new YMCA on campus will not have a swimming pool, but the Heskett Center does have the average college-size, 25-yard pool. But there’s a catch: despite the pool’s full length, the stands and size of the building don’t seem equipped to host meets.

So if Golden wanted to have swimming, the team would have to schedule all its meets away.

A timetable for change cannot be guessed; it’s up to Golden alone. But if he wants to have a lasting impact on WSU athletics, he’ll have to figure out his own secret sauce.