Rhodes Lynx Football Kicks Off Season In Style | Community Spirit
(WMC-TV) - Big time upgrades have arrived on the gridiron at Rhodes College just in time for the kick-off of the 2012 season.
"This is the physical manifestation in football of what Rhodes aspires to academically," said second year Lynx head football coach Dan Gritti.
The coach convinced Rhodes President Dr. Bill Troutt that the Division III liberal arts college needed an improved playing surface.
Crews spent the summer removing the grass field and replacing it with "FieldTurf Revolution," a state of the art surface now being used by the likes of New York Giants in their 2012 NFL season opening game against the Dallas Cowboys at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The New England Patriots added the cutting edge turf to their field at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.
"We're serious about being the best and providing the best experience possible for our players," Coach Gritti said.
Crews removed the football field's "crown" as the artificial surface no longer needed a change in grade for drainage. The field was excavated and a base layer of gravel was steamrolled into place. On top of the gravel, crews poured a mixture of sand and rubber that helps lessen trauma as players hit the deck. A new playing surface was stretched out on top of the gravel, sand and rubber and literally sewn into place section by section.
"Studies show there are fewer injuries on the FieldTurf Revolution, it plays safer than grass," Gritti said. You can learn more about FieldTurf click here.
The improvements were financed by a generous gift from an alumnus who played football for the school that was known as Southwestern at Memphis in his era.
Lester Crain, a 1951 graduate, made a donation in the neighborhood of $1 million dollars to make the new field possible.
Gritti says Crain was "jumping up and down in the locker room" after a Lynx victory last season and will give the 2012 team a pre-game pep talk on Friday night before the Lynx take on their first opponent of the year, Washington University of St. Louis at 1:00 o'clock Saturday afternoon, September 8 on the college's Midtown Memphis campus.
The Field is dedicated in the name of Lester Crain, Sr. Class of 1929 by Lester Jr. Class of '51 and his wife Brenda Crain. Rhodes fundraisers used Crain gift to inspire other benefactors to donate even more support. The extra dollars were used to install FieldTurf on the field hockey facility on the eastern end of campus.
Gritti says the new field played a key role in helping Lynx recruit prospective players. The coach says his 2012 squad has 35 freshman and 14 to 15 of them will see action in the season opener on Saturday.
"This is a close knit team and the hardest working team I've ever been associated with," Gritti said.
The Lynx had three victories against six losses in their 2011 campaign and the head coach says his team's goal this year is a winning season.
"We're focused on improving and it's a process that doesn't happen overnight," Gritti said.
The Lynx are a young team now but will retain all but two starters when the club returns for the 2013 season.
"We have a goal to win the conference title next year," Gritti said.
Rhodes and six other peer institutions broke away from the NCAA Division III Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) on July 1, 2012 to form a new conference beginning play this semester.
The schools include Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, Centre College in Kentucky, Hendrix College in Arkansas, Millsaps College in Mississippi, Oglethorpe University in Georgia, and Sewanee: The University of the South in East Tennessee. Berry College in Rome Georgia will unite with the new conference to create a highly focused eight member league of DIvision III liberal arts colleges known for academic excellence.
The new conference makes geographic sense, giving student athletes the opportunity to compete with other Division III teams while reducing travel time between campuses.
Gritti earned a B.A. in Political Science and History at Vanderbilt University in 1995 before heading to the University of Wisconsin Law School to acquire a Juris Doctorate in 1998. But Gritti discerned that his heart was not invested in a legal career and he felt a calling to coach football.
Rhodes is his first head coaching opportunity. Gritti was an assistant at the University of Chicago (2009-10), Middlebury College in Vermont (2005-08) and he led Defensive Quality Control at his first coaching stop, Indiana University (2003-04).
"We're on an academic rocketship at Rhodes," Gritti said. "We're attracting high quality students and the new football field is evidence we're raising the bar."