PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Southeast Arkansas College leaders announced this week that the school is joining the National Junior College Athletic Association and will begin offering athletics.
"This is just another option to help a student along their educational journey," SEARK President Steven Bloomberg said.
This fall, SEARK is jumpstarting its baseball, softball and Esports programs. During Fall 2024, the community college will start men's and women's basketball and cheerleading.
SEARK Athletic Director and Head Men's Basketball Coach Chad Kline already has a vision for the new competitive sports programs.
"Our expectation as an athletic department is to win and to win at a high level," Kline said.
According to Kline, winning on the court is important, but being role models out in the community will also be an important focus.
"We want our athletes to be involved with the community [and] be involved with the schools," Kline said.
They're using space just a few miles from the main campus to serve as the hub for all things athletics.
"It's going to have a makeover," Kline said. "We are going to put in two new wood courts and right outside is where our baseball and softball fields will be."
About 1,000 students are enrolled at SEARK right now, and Bloomberg expects that to increase once competition begins.
"Our projections, fully implemented, 200 new full-time students," Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg's goal is to bring people to campus while showcasing the city.
"Capitalizing on local talent was one of the driving forces behind this decision," Bloomberg said.
Kline hopes the word gets around town and attracts more people to show up and cheer on the Sharks.
"We're another team Pine Bluff can root for" Kline said. "I look forward to courting competitive teams."
The college is also adding dorms for about 170 students and has set a goal to raise an additional $3 million.
Kline said he's still searching for a women's basketball, baseball and softball coach.