LEBANON — McKendree University director of athletics Chuck Brueggemann announced on Wednesday that bass fishing is the newest sport to be offered at the institution. The Bearcats' bass fishing program will begin competition in the 2013-14 academic year and will function as a co-ed program.
McKendree adds its name to the list of one of the fastest-growing collegiate sports in the nation. There are nearly 300 colleges and universities that sponsor a collegiate bass fishing program. McKendree will train at Carlyle Lake, where it also plans on hosting at least one event during the 2013-14 competition season.
The addition of a bass fishing program brings the total number of sports offered at the University to 24. Earlier this week, women's wrestling was introduced as the school's 23rd sport.
According to Brueggemann, the McKendree bass fishing team will be housed in the department of athletics. The university will provide funding for the program to include scholarships.
Along with the addition of bass fishing as the newest sport at McKendree, the University also introduced the first coach for the program on Wednesday. Brueggemann has tapped Highland High School bass fishing coach Jon Rinderer to lead the Bearcats into competition next year. Rinderer comes to McKendree after building the Highland squad into one of the most successful squads in the state over the last four years.
"Bass fishing is one of the fastest-growing sports at both the high school and collegiate level, and the addition of this sport to McKendree University makes sense on so many levels," said Brueggemann. "Not only are we adding a new sport with so much potential, but we are very fortunate to have hired someone in Jon Rinderer as the person who will shape our newest program. Jon brings not only impressive fishing and coaching credentials, but brings a true passion for his craft and a desire to work with young people who will help put the McKendree bass fishing program on the map."
Since founding the Highland program in 2009, Rinderer has helped mold the Bulldogs' program into a model of consistency in the state of Illinois. In each of his four years at the helm, Rinderer guided Highland to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state tournament, which is held at Carlyle Lake. Last spring, Highland captured its first state championship. In 2011, the Bulldogs had two boats that placed third and fourth, respectively, in the IHSA state event.
In each of the past three years, Highland has had at least one boat earn a sectional title on its way to state competition.
"I am really excited to have the opportunity to help start the new program at McKendree," said Rinderer. "It was fun when we started the program at Highland and to see the kind of success we have been able to enjoy over those four years. The sport of bass fishing has exploded onto the scene over the last several years, and a lot of schools have recognized that growth. McKendree has seen that potential and I cannot wait to get started."
Rinderer currently teaches fourth-grade students at New Douglas Elementary School. He is a 33-year veteran of the teaching profession.
An active member of the fishing community, Rinderer is a long-time competitor in several bass fishing circuits. Rinderer has registered numerous first-place finishes over the years on tour, including events with the Bass World Sports Circuit, the USA Bassin' Circuit, the Big Bass Trail Circuit, the Premier Tournament Circuit and the Gene Cailey's Winter Circuit.
Rinderer was drawn to the McKendree program after seeing the level of support given to the sport by the University. He believes that will only help the Bearcats' newest program in the recruiting process.
"I've watched the sport boom at the high-school level and work its way into the college ranks," said Rinderer. "A lot of college teams are club-organized and student-run groups. McKendree is starting a unique program due to the kind of support that the University is giving to this sport. We will be able to offer a lot of things that other programs just do not offer. It will be exciting for the students and exciting for me from a recruiting aspect. The support from the University will help us build a very competitive program."
Rinderer will now turn his attention to recruiting for the 2013-14 year. "Our ultimate goal is to build a championship program," said Rinderer. "We want to build this program with the concept that all the fishermen will be able to participate in tournament situations and I would like to host invitationals where schools from all over come to fish our home lake at Carlyle. We also want to build a successful program that is able to compete successfully in regional competitions which will enable our team to qualify for national tournament competition."
Rinderer looks forward to having the Bearcats' newest program competing in invitational events during the fall, with the regional competition season set for the spring.