Nowhere but up: Coaches and athletes rejoice for return of athletics after 15 years

Summer King


If you are a student at the Mississippi University for Women— or if you are a member of the Columbus, Miss. community— then you might be roughly familiar with some of the W’s history. Nov. 10, 2002 was a terrible day for the nation, Lowndes County and the W’s campus. Tornadoes were ripping us apart. Unfortunately, the old athletics program couldn’t continue after this. In 2003 the W officially announced that intercollegiate athletics would be ending.

To be a coach or player and have that information suddenly dropped on you must have been crushing.

“At first, I thought it was the most devastating thing that ever happened,” said Rita Higginbotham, intramural sports coach. “It was like a dream. ’Hey, you gonna wake up and this can’t be,’ or, ‘No, they gonna come up with a solution.’”

Higginbotham was the head softball coach when the university decided to cut the athletics program.

Fast forward 15 years. In 2017, there is a brand-new athletics program at the W, including sports for male students.

“Once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Jason Trufant, Director of Athletics and Recreation. “A lot of places are scaling back on athletics, and this was an opportunity to move forward in a giant leap.”

Trufant said that it’s a lot of fun. The athletes are excited to be here, too.

“It feels amazing because we’re making history here,” said Prince Tolbert, an OWLS baseball player. “So, that’s a big plus.”

“When you show up to a college soccer game and they announce your team, ‘Mississippi University for Women,’ everybody just gives you this look,” said Caleb Slone, an OWLS soccer player. “It’s kind of funny.”

This is a huge transition in the right direction for our university. The hope is to draw in more students to the W. The return of athletics makes the presence of the W larger. This is the university’s chance to reach students who love academics but also want to pursue sports.

“We’re on our path for Division 3, which is going to be about a five-year path,” Trufant said. “Over that time, I would envision anywhere from 100 to 150 more student athletes coming on this campus.”

Opinions across the board say that sports are going to be good for the W. Along with time-management and leadership, athletics brings a new-found sense of dedication. Our student population is growing. With a new logo and a lot of new students I feel as though we could connect the W to its roots. Go OWLS!

Photo by Summer King.

Photo by Summer King.



Prince Tolbert is a transfer junior from South Alabama. He is majoring in Secondary Education in Mathematics. He is on the baseball team here at the W. He took the opportunity because he wanted to be able to play baseball again. He has been playing baseball for 18 years.

Photo by Summer King.

Photo by Summer King.




Caleb Slone is a first year student. He received the Centennial scholarship to the W. He is currently majoring in General Business. Slone has been playing soccer for 13 years now, and he is on the W’s soccer team.