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Game Changers: Athletic enrollment surges

By Emily Carroll

More than 400 student athletes are attending Rochester University this fall, which is a record number.

Mary Sauger, director of admissions, said RU had 435 student-athletes and 805 traditional students, which means more than 50% of traditional students compete on RU athletic teams.

Student athletes are drawn in by the opportunity that RU provides in scholarships, new friendships from teammates and a welcoming campus community.

Students are noticing the impact this large number of student-athletes is having not only on

the school and its opportunities, but its atmosphere as well.

“The amount of relationships I’ve made through athletics is far more than I would have made otherwise and has benefited me greatly,” said Cam Tupper, a senior digital marketing and management major.

Athletic Director Clayton Bissett said RU embraces being a small school and thrives from the personal relationships built here between students and staff. “When I was the golf coach and gave campus tours to potential recruits, it was not uncommon for us to see a professor sitting one-on-one with a student athlete helping them understand the material,” he said.


Bissett said he is pleased with how much growth the university has seen during his 16 years at RU, and he is excited to see what the future holds. In addition to the growth in number of teams and athletes, new and renovated facilities have also improved the athletic program.

The Garth Pleasant Arena opened in 2017 and houses men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and tournaments for wrestling and competitive cheer. The White House, home to coach’s offices, and the Warrior Center, where athletes work out in the fitness facility and practice in the gymnasium, also have been renovated in recent years.

The university is also working to raise money for the Bill Shinsky Athletic Fields, which will have an artificial turf field for men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse and club football. The complex will also have lighting, walkways, spectator seating, a press box and guest amenities.


Tai Sharpley, assistant athletic director and senior women’s administrator, plays an important role in facilitating the growth of women’s athletics. Sharpley said she is passionate about helping student athletes and finds fulfillment in seeing their success. 

“My position is giving that platform to support the female coaches and athletes and giving

them a time to shine and be recognized.”

Kayla Parks-Albrant, head coach of women’s lacrosse, has worked with Sharpley to form a group called FAST, which stands for Female Athletes Standing Together, that creates a space for female athletes to bond. In her own experience as a student athlete, Parks-Albrant said, “I think our biggest allies can be us together, us women. No one supports women like women support women.”


RU athletics is adding a men’s volleyball program, which will begin official competition in the 2024-25 season. Recruiting and coaching will be done by Juliana Nash, head women’s volleyball coach. “I’m very excited for this new program to start at Rochester University and to continue to help grow the men’s game in Michigan. Men’s volleyball will be a great addition, and I can’t wait to work with more future Warriors on both the men’s and women’s sides, Nash said.”

Sharpley said she wants to continue to grow the athletic program with sports such as men’s and women’s swimming, as the popularity of the sport in the area is on the rise.




10 athletic teams

21 athletic teams

135 student athletes

435 student athletes

5 full time coaches and staff

15 full time coaches and staff


People will come and go but the legacy of RU will always be here. Bissett said, “Our goals are always to help our student-athletes grow into adulthood with a strong moral compass and to help them become better people.” Sharpley echoed that thought: “Watching students’ grow and mature on and off the field over the course of four-to-five years...from nervous freshmen to confident upperclassmen leaders. I literally love to see the light bulb come on!”

Men's Golf, Freshman, Tomas Beltran

Softball, Senior, Emma Conkright

Men's Bowling, Freshman, Dominic Wilson

Women's Bowling, Junior, Rachel Caseria

Baseball, Senior, Cameron Tupper

Women's Golf, Junior, Mackenzie Murdock

Men's Bowling, Sophomore, Jackson Vlassis

Softball, Senior, Payton Parrish

Baseball, Junior, Deyonte Fossett

Women's Bowling, Freshman, Vanessa Zissler

Men's Soccer, Junior, Garrett Doud

Women's Soccer, Freshman, Shelby Holyfield

Men's Golf, Freshman, Marc Bofarull

Women's Soccer, Sophomore, Alyssa Romatz

Men's Soccer, Sophomore, Gadiel Herrera



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