After a 20-year hiatus, the Roosevelt University Lakers are coming back.
The Loop-based Chicago university, which has seen rapid growth in its undergraduate enrollment in the past few years and has around 7,700 total students, is relaunching an intercollegiate sports program it canceled 20 years ago.
The school has hired Mike Cassidy from the University of Illinois at Chicago to be the athletic director.
"This university is on the up and up," Cassidy told the Huffington Post. "The face of the university is changing from mostly graduate students to mostly traditional students, fresh out of high school and looking for athletics as part of their college experience."
Cassidy said the school plans to field 12 teams, both men and women, and to compete first in the NAIA before applying for the NCAA's Division III.
"My basic plan is to be patient but aggressive," Cassidy said. "Bring in coaches, give them time to recruit. But in two years I want us competing in half our sports -- all of them in three."
It won't be an easy road. Roosevelt currently lacks space for sports, and land in the Loop is hard to find.
"We currently have no indoor or outdoor facilities," Cassidy said. "That's Opportunity No. 1. Some people refer to it as a challenge but I'm thinking of it as an opportunity."
Roosevelt has identified a potential site for a field house, and Cassidy said he is pitching the idea of starting a cooperative arrangement among Roosevelt, Robert Morris College, Columbia College and DePaul University to share a recreational and competitive space somewhere in the Loop.
Roosevelt spokesman Tom Karow said the push to reinstate sports came from students and had been in the works for a few years.
The new athletic program will cost the school between $700,000 to $1 million annually, according to the Tribune, with the cost rising as more sports are added.
Cassidy said potential students may have turned away from Roosevelt because it lacked a varsity sports program. He's hoping that will now change.
"If we can get athletics to be part of the experience," Cassidy said, "it might help us bring in a different kind of student and continue to change the face of this university."