OPINION: Wichita State’s bowling team should be a sport — not a club


Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State freshman Nick Sommer practices with his team on Feb. 12, 2019 at the Rhatigan Student Center. Sommer wants to own his own business after college, preferably in the bowling industry. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Every college sport that Wichita State offers is listed on the website on goshockers.com. However, the bowling team is not a part of this list. 

The Wichita State bowling team has won 12 men’s national titles and 10 women’s national titles at the Intercollegiate Team Championships which all teams must qualify for in order to participate. 

WSU also has several alumni that have gone on to compete at the professional level. For example, Gordon Vadakin was the bowling coach from 1978-2019 at WSU and coached 15 professional bowlers during his career. Vadakin was recently inducted into Wichita State’s 2022 Pizza Hut Sports Hall of Fame which was recognized by the athletic department. 

 Despite their success competing at the collegiate level, the bowling team has never been recognized as an official sport. Collegiate bowling is considered to be a nationally sanctioned sport by the USBC Collegiate Program. However, bowling is considered to be a club at Wichita State.

Bowling is widely popular in the United States and internationally. The United States Bowling Congress states on their website that more than 67 million people in the United States compete in bowling, and more than 1.2 million people compete in a sanctioned league. Internationally, 95 million people participate in bowling in more than 90 countries. 

On the collegiate level, more than 3,500 students compete on intercollegiate bowling teams and more than 100 schools offer bowling scholarships. 

An argument that could be made is that all teams in the Wichita State Athletic Department compete in the American Athletic Conference. Therefore, if WSU were to become an official sport, they would possibly have to join the conference. 

The issue with the bowling program joining the conference is that the AAC doesn’t have a bowling league. However, several teams in the conference do have a bowling program at their university, such as USF and UCF. 

Despite not having a bowling league in the AAC, bowling could still be recognized by WSU’s athletic department on their homepage. The University of Nebraska is a part of the Big 10 Conference in college athletics. Even though the Big Ten does not have a league, Nebraska’s women’s bowling team is recognized by their athletic program on their website, and competes in the NCAA Regional and Championships. 

Overall, treating bowling at Wichita State like any other sport would show that WSU is an inclusive university that is supportive of all sports and the recognition and attraction they bring to the university and college athletics.