With Detroit’s struggles well-documented it’s easy to overlook the positives right in our own back yard … Detroit’s Midtown, the home to Wayne State University and its playoff- bound football team.
Playoff bound you say. You bet … and hardly anybody knows about it.
One of the best kept sports secrets in the city is the Warrior’s football program, which has evolved from a ho-hum performer over the past several decades into a serious regional power that’s knocking on the door of national prominence.
For the first time in the school’s history the football team was selected to participate in the NCAA Division ll Football Championship playoffs. This Saturday afternoon Wayne State will face St. Cloud State in a first round playoff game. Over the past four years the football team has won 70 percent of its games and has had eight wins or more in three of the past four seasons. Not only is the team a national contender, 33 of its players achieved All-Academic honors.
Football isn’t Wayne’s only claim to fame. It recently recorded a first in program history with all five spring sports teams qualifying for the NCAA tournaments in 2010. This unprecedented accomplishment saw five of its men’s and women’s sports teams in post-season tournament action in the same year.
Not to overlook the university’s other sports teams. Success for Wayne State athletics is widespread. When combining the winning performances of Warrior athletic teams they have finished in the top 10 percent of all Division ll programs eight of the last nine years. Couple WSU team successes with student athlete performance in the classroom and that results in 13 of the school’s 15 athletic teams achieving Dean’s List grade point status.
To attract and retain high-caliber, well-rounded, career-oriented student athletes speak volumes for university leaders, the athletic department and coaches. Clearly, the university is favorably attracting, influencing and changing the views of its students, their families and friends as well as alumni to make Detroit a place to experience and enjoy.
So, what does an 8-3 football team have in common with a revitalized midtown neighborhood, a dynamic business incubator and a nationally recognized research university?
They are all part of the “place to be” in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown district, which is also home to world-class museums, theatres, libraries, concert halls and professional sports venues. They are part of Wayne State, which offers students and visitors a “want to keep coming back” campus experience over 210 acres of unique architecture, landscaped walkways, green spaces and very relaxing gathering spots.
For Detroiters it’s important to recognize that Wayne State is Detroit’s oldest anchor institution and one of its largest employers playing a significant role in the educational, social, cultural and economic life of Detroit. In addition it’s a really picturesque and vibrant main campus in the heart of the city. Its national reputation attracts the most diverse student body among Michigan’s public universities. Over the past decade the university has spent nearly $700 million dollars on projects that have changed Midtown’s landscape and ambience.
The university’s commitment to revitalize Midtown has resulted in its participation in two major initiatives. The first is to grow Midtown by 15,000 young professionals by 2015 … an initiative of the Hudson-Webber Foundation. The second is to ensure public safety, provide local transportation, boost economic development and beautify the area.
Both seem to be working. Midtown is in the midst of a successful renaissance drawing hundreds of young professionals into the neighborhood with more likely to follow as additional apartments, lofts and condos now under construction come on the market.
Only a few blocks north of the main campus is the university’s TechTown business incubator. It has developed into an epicenter of high-tech business creation by equipping new companies with the services, support and resources they need to grow and thrive. The 12-block technical park is becoming a critical source of job growth in Michigan and is home to Michigan’s first stem cell commercialization lab.
The business incubator facility, now hosts more than 250 growing companies providing more than 500 jobs. Ongoing networking events and business start-up training programs are annually introducing thousands of Southeast Michigan residents to downtown Detroit and a culture of entrepreneurship development critical to growing the area’s business and economic base.
Hopefully, many of you will make it a point to come down to Midtown, experience a fun afternoon or evening on campus and grab dinner at one of the neighborhood restaurants in the area. While you’re on campus plan to attend a Warrior game and root on these outstanding student-athletes and help them in a little way to reach their potential both on and off the field.
As the saying goes “success breeds success.”
Photos credit: Karpov the Wrecked Train