Drexel is not typically known as a sports school, but a change may be in our University’s future. In his first decree involving the Drexel athletics program as president, John A. Fry, in conjunction with Director of Athletics Eric Zillmer, decided not only to promote a sport from the club level to the Division I level, but to try and change the entire athletic culture.
In order to do this, Fry and Zillmer worked hard to get a large world-class event to take place at Drexel, in order to begin the University’s path toward recognition in the world of athletics.
Any guesses as to what this worldly sport is? If you said football, sorry to disappoint…
The answer is squash — a sport that will hopefully become this school’s claim to fame in the coming future. Fry came to Drexel from Franklin and Marshall, a school that is completely immersed in the culture of squash, and it seems as though he thought fondly of that culture and decided it would be beneficial for this University as well.
On a more personal level, Fry is not only an avid fan but also a player of the game and a member of the U.S. Squash board of directors. And seeing as how, according to Zillmer, squash has deep roots in the city of Philadelphia, Drexel seems to be the perfect place for the sport. Because much like how the University is consistently ranked as an up-and-coming school, squash is becoming more and more popular in the United States.
This new development in our athletics program is another bit of proof that Fry has taken off the gloves and gotten to work at Drexel. He has picked an area of focus and plans to take the program itself to new heights, beginning with the recently hosted U.S. Open Squash Championships, which occurred Oct. 1-6.
As part of its hosting duties, Drexel accommodated players from 23 countries, with the two champions from the men’s and women’s divisions coming from Egypt and England respectively. The games were also streamed online and broadcast so millions of people could watch the events taking place in our gymnasium. By placing Drexel in both a national and international spotlight, Fry has bolstered the reputation and coverage of the University while creating a fun event that students could attend for free.
The event took place at the John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center, and the participants were most of the top-25 players in the world. The men’s finals were broadcast on ESPN3.com and reached an audience of about 60 million households. The U.S. Open spanned throughout the first week of October, and the winners of the men’s and women’s divisions received a combined $175,000 in winnings.
Large events such as the tournament not only showcase Drexel on a national spotlight but also begin the process of infusing our urban campus with an athletic culture. The fact that Fry and Zillmer had the insight to have the U.S. Open Squash Championships at Drexel this year as well as the next two years is a testament to how athletic culture at Drexel is changing.
As spectators and members of Drexel’s community, we applaud the efforts that our president has made to bring large sporting events to Drexel — not just because it provides a small balm for the Phillies’ loss, but also because these events are exciting and give us great games to watch. We look forward to many more developments in the future of Drexel athletics and wish the new squash team good luck in its rookie season!