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In midst of COVID-19 pandemic, Albion actually adds three sports teams, including wrestling

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Amid all the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a significant uptick in colleges citing finances in cutting athletic programs, here's some rare good news on that front.

Albion College announced this week it is actually adding three sports teams to its varsity lineup, starting with the 2021-22 academic year: men's wrestling, women's wrestling and esports.

Men's wrestling marks its return to the school after a 40-year absence.

Albion College announced it is adding three varsity sports, including men's wrestling.

"Albion College is always striving to provide a great educational experience, and athletics is part of that experience," Albion president-elect Mathew Johnson said in a statement.

"With men's and women's wrestling as well as the rapidly growing esports, Albion will provide more opportunities for all those students who wish to participate."

Albion, a private, liberal-arts, Division III school with an enrollment about 1,500 located in south-mid Michigan, now have 24 athletic programs, 12 each for men and women.

Men's wrestling will compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Women's wrestling won't have a conference, since only two other MIAA schools, Adrian and Trine, carry the sport. It's not yet clear what conference esports will be joining. In the MIAA, Trine and Alma also have esports.

Mike Moyer, president of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, was also thrilled with Albion's return to collegiate wrestling

"It's a real big deal," said Mike Moyer, president of the National Wrestling Coaches Assocation. "And it's an even bigger deal to do something bold like this during COVID-19. At the end of the day, we've seen this trend before COVID as many schools are experiencing declines in enrollment. What better way to turn it around than to offer activities that are important to students."

More than 30 Division I schools have eliminated athletic programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including Central Michigan, which cut its men's indoor and outdoor track and field program, saying it will save the university more than $600,000 a year in the long-term. Central Michigan is the only college in the state to eliminate an athletic program since the coronavirus outbreak began to crush the economy in mid-March. Connecticut on Wednesday nnounced it was eliminating four sports teams.

In other local college news, Robert Morris women's lacrosse will join the Mid-American Conference as an associate member, because its new conference, the Horizon League, doesn't sponsor the sport. Robert Morris' football team is joining the Big South.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984