McKENZIE – Bethel University has been expanding its athletic department over the past few months with the additions of new sports teams like bass fishing, bowling and shooting teams.
That expansion has continued in recent weeks as the Wildcats announced this past week the addition of an inline hockey program to the school’s sports team list.
Matt Swinea will be the coach for the team. He has been the sports information director for the Wildcats since 2007 and is in transition from SID to coach. Swinea is also a cohost of The Pressbox, a sports talk show on FM 96.5 WBFG with Jim Steele.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Swinea said. “If you’d told me five years ago I’d be coaching a college hockey team in McKenzie, Tenn., I’d say you were crazy.”
Swinea played college hockey at Alabama-Huntsville and has been playing recreational hockey around West Tennessee, including the adult inline hockey league last spring.
Swinea said he has already been recruiting and picked up four recruits, three out of the Nashville area and one from Henry County.
“There are a few schools who have a team around Nashville, and we’ve picked up some pretty good players who made the Metro All-Star team,” Swinea said. “Middle Tennessee State is the only other college in Tennessee who has a team right now, so that means the players committing to us are kids that really want to play hockey.”
Swinea said the team’s home-game location is still up in the air, but groups of teams will meet for a few games each weekend in one place for most of the games.
“We’ll probably get four or five games in each weekend at different places,” Swinea said. “We’ll be playing against schools in all different levels of collegiate athletics.”
Swinea said the Wildcats will be playing club teams from schools as near as MTSU, programs like Florida and other NAIA schools like Lindenwood in St. Louis.
“I’m looking forward to getting started,” Swinea said. “There are a lot of people on campus who have told me they’re excited about coming out and watch, and the kids I’ve talked to about coming are excited.
“It’s hard for me to believe there aren’t more hockey programs in the state with an NHL team in Nashville, but we’ve got kids ready to get here and play for us.”
-By Brandon Shields