Gardner works to revitalize UWA Booster Club

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

“Most successful athletic programs have successful booster clubs,” says the University of West Alabama’s Jason Gardner. Gardner, the UWA Director of Student Activities, wants a successful athletic program. So he’s doing something about the booster club: namely, starting one.

“For the last six years it’s been nonexistent,” Gardner says. “We’re trying to get it back going again.”

The UWA Booster Club hasn’t always been in a state of neglect, and even in the past several years the club has continued in a certain ceremonial fashion. But Gardner is spearheading an effort to revitalize the Club and help it make a difference for UWA athletics again. After two preliminary re-organization meetings earlier this year, the new-and-improved Booster Club will have its debut, of a sort, this Monday when it hosts a dinner featuring UWA baseball coach Gary Rundles. Rundles, named the 2005 Gulf South Conference Coach of the year, will speak to club members on various topics related to the baseball program.

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“This is the first [event] since we’re changing the membership and the dues,” Gardner says. “We’re looking to have more interaction between the coaches and members, let them talk to the coaches about recruiting, scheduling, that sort of thing. It’s a good opportunity for the coaches to talk about what’s happening with their program.”

Monday’s dinner which will cost $8 a head and will be held at 6 p.m. in UWA’s Y Hall. Events like the dinner aren’t just for keeping Club members informed, however–they’re also about building a stable fund-raising base for future athletic projects on campus.

“We’re just wanting to get the Tiger Club some backing,” Gardner says of the Club’s overall mission, “and provide some money to our athletic programs.”

There are several projects, Gardner says, that the Booster Club will be participating in over the course of the next several months. One is a contribution to the ongoing efforts to provide Tiger Stadium with sufficient lighting to host night-time games in Livingston. Another is supporting UWA baseball club the Deckheads in their efforts to build a batting facility for the UWA baseball team. In the long-term, Gardner would like to install “chairback” seats in UWA’s basketball gymnasium.

“We’re doing a lot of different things, just trying to get going in a different direction,” Gardner says. “Before, the club wasn’t doing anything… any projects we can do, we’ll do. Support is the number-one goal of our club: supporting our collegiate athletes, either by being there or by providing money.”

The importance of a strong Booster Club will be seen this fall at Tiger Stadium, where UWA will host four night-time football games beginning with a season-opening Thursday evening clash with Concordia. Although the Club won’t be a major contributor in the Tiger Stadium lighting project, the new lights remain an example of the kind of improvements that the Club can work towards and achieve for UWA athletics.

“If you look around the state, at other universities and what they’ve got,” Gardner says, “what we’ve had is nowhere near what has to be had for a successful program.”