If you’re going to do something different, be the best. Do it big. And go all in. Especially when it comes to fishing.
That’s the lesson from Adrian College’s inaugural season in the surprisingly growing sport of varsity bass fishing.
Yes. You read that right. It’s OK to raise an eyebrow. Others did initially too. But no more. That’s because independent Adrian College is ranked #1 above huge schools such as Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin in Cabela’s College Bass Fishing rankings.
“When we let it be known we would be fielding a team, the reaction of some was, ‘Give me a break — bass fishing?’ But everyone has changed their tune now,” Adrian Bulldogs Athletic Director Mike Duffy told the Toledo Blade.
“It’s been a little overwhelming because things have taken a huge turn. I had hoped we could build the program and be real competitive in two or three years, but not right out of the gate.”
It may have all the makings of a movie pitch — Rocky Balboa meets David vs. Goliath on a Michigan lake — but success didn’t just happen by accident for Adrian.
It was cultivated and planned.
When Duffy decided last year to field a team, no expenses were spared. The school bought the best equipment and trailers, recruited top prospects and scoured the nation for a quality coach, Seth Borton, an Adrian native and Siena Heights graduate who fished in professional tournaments for more than a dozen years.
Varsity bass fishing is quietly becoming a big deal. Nationwide, there are 315 registered programs. Still, Adrian’s team drives up to 10 hours for tournament. That doesn’t stop team members from getting teased a bit.
“I come off the water a lot more tired and a lot more sore than I ever got playing football and playing basketball,” said Dalton Breckel, who won a junior fishing title in Michigan.
“I think everyone on the team has gotten a little bit of a fair share of razzing.”
That’s OK. Because following your passions and ignoring the naysayers is a specialty of Adrian College and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.
Along with bass fishing, Adrian offers other niche sports including synchronized skating and equestrian. Because college is about having the opportunity to try new things, discover your bliss and chart your own path.
The schools emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.
With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.
Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.