Talk of a new conference and a new season were among the highlights of the first Green and Gold Club luncheon of the 2011-12 academic year at Western Sizzlin of Russellville on Monday, Aug. 29.
The five coaches who spoke at the luncheon --- head women's golf coach Amy White, head men's golf coach Luke Calcatera, head cross country coach Tom Aspel, head volleyball coach Kristy Bayer and director of athletics and head football coach Steve Mullins (photographed) --- gave Tech boosters a preview of their upcoming seasons.
Bryan Fisher, director of athletic relations, served as master of ceremonies.
Much of the talk centered around the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference. Arkansas Tech and eight other charter members formed the new league as a means to limit missed class time and travel expenses. Fall 2011 will mark the debut of the Great American Conference.
Arkansas Tech will play its first GAC football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, when it visits the University of Arkansas at Monticello for a 6 p.m. contest at Convoy Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium.
"I'm looking forward to the change in travel," said Mullins of the new conference. "The Great American Conference will be beneficial from a financial, physical and mental standpoint."
White, who led the Golden Suns golf team to the Gulf South Conference championship in its final season of competition in that league, said she is also looking forward to the new league.
"It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling to win the GSC championship," said White. "I've had the trophy sitting on my desk all summer, but I moved it today. We put it in the trophy case. Today is our first practice of the new year. It's a new season and a new start. There's lots of excitement with the new conference."
Calcatera will be in his first season as head men's golf coach at Arkansas Tech. He succeeds Dave Falconer, who coached the Wonder Boys golf team from 1989-2011. Falconer passed away on June 11.
"We are looking forward to the year and everything that will be presented to us," said Calcatera, who played golf at Tech from 2003-07.
Aspel introduced his new student assistant coach, former Golden Suns cross country runner Michelle Pollreis.
"We are all sophomores and freshmen," said Aspel, who has been head cross country coach at Arkansas Tech since 1994. "We will struggle for the first couple of weeks. Right now we can run far, but we can't do it very fast. Our returnees will have to work themselves into shape."
Bayer explained that the Golden Suns volleyball team, which was picked by GAC coaches as the preseason pick to win the regular season conference title, has embraced its role as favorite.
"We have adopted high expectations as our team motto," said Bayer. "We've been picked to win our conference the last couple of years, and we know that the target is on our back. We have a veteran group, and we're looking forward to the new conference."
Mullins spoke last, and he used the opportunity to praise his football team for its dedication during preseason practice.
"I was very pleased with the work ethic and the lack of complaining," said Mullins. "When it is as hot and humid as it was during the preseason, there are usually opportunities for the guys to come up with complaints. That was at a minimum. I like the attitude of this group and the way it is coming together."
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Click here to view more photos from the Green and Gold Club Luncheon on Aug. 29, 2011.