Daemen College will fill a void on the local collegiate sports scene and tap into one of the area's athletic strengths by adding men's volleyball to its varsity sports offerings, the school announced Thursday.
The college introduced Don Gleason as the team's head coach at a Friday news conference and discussed a $60,000 grant from the MotorMVB Foundation that has helped establish the program. The team expects to begin competing in January 2019.
"We are beyond excited to be adding men's volleyball to the sports offered here at Daemen College," athletic director Bridget Niland said. "In researching ways that Daemen athletics can continue to have a positive impact on the college's enrollment, it became evident that establishing a men's volleyball program is an avenue worth pursuing."
Western New York has a history of producing elite volleyball talent at the high school level, headlined by U.S. Olympian Matt Anderson, who played collegiately at Penn State. However, no local collegiate program above the Division III level offered the sport.
As a result, top-flight players ventured to out-of-town schools to continue their careers. As a Division II program, Daemen can offer athletic aid that could entice players developed in Western New York to attend college locally.
"We understand the complexities of competing as an independent NCAA Division II program," Niland said. "We've weighed such factors as scholarship funding, scheduling, travel and operating costs in making the decision to add this sport. Although the team's scholarship budget is yet to be determined, we believe that being the only scholarship program in the region will give us a leg up on recruiting qualified student-athletes."
Men's volleyball becomes Daemen's 17th varsity sport, and the college becomes the 27th Division II institution to offer men's volleyball.
"I am humbled and honored to be a part of this groundbreaking announcement," Gleason said. "It's truly a great day to be a Daemen Wildcat, and I'm very much looking forward to bringing a new and exciting level of men's collegiate volleyball to Western New York.
"In many ways, this feels like the culmination of so many efforts, but in actuality it's just the beginning. Building a program from scratch brings a whole set of challenges, but through conversations with [Wade Garard, CEO of MotorMVB Foundation] and coaches around the country who've gone through this, I couldn't feel more strongly that the time is right for us to do this here at Daemen College."
Gleason has coached at the Division I, II and III levels and most recently was an assistant coach with the Daemen women's volleyball team. He will remain on the women's staff, as well, the school said.
Niland also thanked Garrand and MotorMVB for its support.
"The leadership at Daemen has really impressed us and we are convinced that Bridget Niland and Coach Gleason will guide a thriving men's volleyball program for many years to come," Garard said.