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College President Recognized for Sports Leadership

May 9, 2014 – Collegiate sports is about much more than wins and losses.

It's about building character in athletes, establishing student pride in an institution and using sports to benefit the entire community.

Those were among the reasons cited Friday when area sports leaders presented their Community Sports Award to Eastern Florida State College President Dr. Jim Richey for his work in expanding the college's athletic programs.

"He has a vision of what the college can be, and a vision of what sports at the college can be," said Rusty Buchanan, executive director of the Space Coast Sports Commission.

"He understands that sports help shape the lives of the athletes and helps promote our community. He knows it goes far beyond who wins and who loses and that it can have an important and lasting imprint."

Richey received the honor at the 4th Annual Bright House Sports Network Breakfast of Champions in Cocoa Beach, which also saluted the top high school athletes in Brevard County.

Since he became college president in early 2012, Richey has added new men's and women's varsity programs with Eastern Florida now fielding teams in soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis and golf.

Its nine varsity programs are the most in the 28-member Florida College System, with its men's and women's soccer teams and men's basketball team nationally ranked.

The college has also begun construction of a multi-phase sports complex on the Melbourne campus.

The centerpiece is the new soccer field that has drawn national collegiate and state high school championship soccer tournaments.

Those tournaments have contributed $2 million to the local economy through visitor spending at hotels, restaurants and other businesses, providing an important boost to their bottom lines.

"Without Dr. Richey's leadership, that would not have happened," said Buchanan.

The college is also constructing new tennis courts, has renovated its gym and plans to upgrade its baseball field and build a new softball field as part of the Melbourne campus complex.

Eastern Florida wants the venues to help attract more tournaments, furthering its athletic programs and growing their economic impact in Brevard.

In accepting the award, Richey said that collegiate sports "opens the door to higher education for students who might not otherwise have the chance to attend.

"That opportunity makes a very real difference in their lives, allowing them to pursue successful careers, raise strong families and achieve their dreams," he said.

Richey added the college's new sports facilities "will be an important benefit to the college and the community for many years to come."