Column: College bowling? Yeah it exists
by Johnathan Bentley
Jul 08, 2014 | 1240 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Johnathan Bentley
Johnathan Bentley
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My coach always told me, "You play to the last pin."

Ok, no coach actually ever told me that, but if I had a bowling coach, maybe he would.

Vanderbilt University DOES have a bowling coach.

His name in John Williamson and he is one of the top women's bowling coaches in the country, if there can be such a thing. Williamson has guided the Commodores to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2007 national championship.

While he isn't the Nick Saban of the NCAA women's bowling world, he has a championship to his credit and two runner-up finishes, so he's more like the Bob Stoops of NCAA women's bowling.

The reason I bring up Vanderbilt's women's bowling is that up until mid-June, the school's lone national championship was a women's bowling title.

I can only wonder if the championship trophy is proudly displayed at Vanderbilt Lanes between the arcade and one of those bowling ball polishing machines.

I actually didn't know this sport existed at the collegiate level until the commentators during Vanderbilt's run to the baseball championship mentioned it.

While the Commodores don't have a men's bowling team, several smaller Division II and JUCO schools do.

Now I'm wondering if I missed my chance at being a collegiate athlete.

I was groomed as a bowling prodigy.

At the age of 7, I was a bowling champion in the making. I had the monogrammed ball, which was all the envy of all my friends, a pair of very nice bowling shoes and a leather bag that held it all together.

Using the lane ball? Out of the question. Renting bowling shoes? Not going to happen.

My dad took me out to Huntsville's Pin Palace at least once a week, hoping I would be the next (insert name of famous bowling guy here).

Realizing my lack of talent — I never did get that wrist thing down — by the age of nine I was off to my next venture. I don't know what became of the ball, the shoes or the bag. I can only hope they went to the next young bowling hopeful with the same initials.

I am pretty sure I was done in by the "Rockin' Bowl" held every Friday night. That's when the black lights came on and the music was turned up. This affected my concentration and kept me from seeing the lines on the lane. My score suffered as a result, but at least I got to hear "Living on a Prayer" at a deafening tone.

Had collegiate bowling been in existence when I was coming out of high school, we had the equivalent of a five-star recruit at my school. By his senior year he had already bowled a perfect game and even had a ring made up for the feat. As you can probably guess he was a strike with the ladies — I mean that in the baseball sense.

Bowling scouts from Indiana Tech to Northwestern Ohio would've pursued him.

Instead of going on to international stardom on the PBA, he was left to languish in the minor leagues as a league-night superstar.

If he had the chance, I'm confident that he could've bowled with a college team of his choosing. There are actually opportunities out there if you are good enough. And if you are getting your college education paid for by heading out to the local lanes and bowling free of charge, that's hard to beat.

While 34 schools have women's bowling, none have men's teams. Only one D-II school has men's bowling — Notre Dame. No, not that Notre Dame. Apparently there is another one. This one is a D-II school in Cleveland.

Women's bowling is more commonplace.

In our own state, Alabama A&M, Alabama State and UAB have NCAA-sanctioned bowling teams. Alabama State was ranked as high as 16th this year and won the SWAC championship.

There is a young woman from my own high school alma mater currently on the Alabama A&M team.

If I ever get out to a match — I'm currently on hold for season tickets — I will let out a "Go Bucks!" as a show of support.

Maybe she will have better luck at the "Rockin' Bowl."

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Johnathan Bentley is the Sports Editor at the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at johnathan.bentley@mountaineagle.com