Just ahead of this month’s FIFA Men’s World Cup, Xavier University of Louisiana—the nation’s Black Catholic university—announced its own foray into the world of soccer, revealing plans for the first such college teams in New Orleans since 2006.
“Xavier supports the complete development of our students; thus, we are constantly expanding offerings, both in and out of the classroom, that allow students to explore their interests and advance their skills. I look forward to cheering on our teams as they win their first game.”
The new soccer plans, which have reportedly been in the works for several years, accord with the university’s recent revamping of its athletics programs, including the reintroduction of men’s indoor track and field as well as baseball last year, and the launch of softball. Co-ed competitive cheer was introduced at XULA in 2019 and last spring the team became the first HBCU squad to win a national championship in the sport (and XULA’s first-ever national champion team in athletics).
Prior to 2021, men’s baseball had been absent at the school for nearly 60 years, and soccer will be a first overall for the 97-year-old institution.
Likely supporting the new venture will be the university’s recently announced $500M centennial campaign—part of which will go toward scholarships and a new athletic field. This year also marked the induction of the inaugural class for the XULA Athletics Hall of Fame, taking place in a ceremony during Homecoming Weekend earlier this month.
As it concerns soccer, New Orleans was once a bastion for the burgeoning sport, as one of the first cities in the world where the modern version was played, beginning in the late 19th century. The city has since hosted a number of amateur, semi-professional, and professional teams, but men’s soccer in the city has not existed at the collegiate level since 1985.
XULA has hosted a soccer club team since 2015, but the new NAIA men’s team will be the only such varsity program at any college or university in southern Louisiana, despite soccer’s immense popularity around the world.
“A recent study shows that soccer is the fastest growing team sport in the United States,” said XULA athletic director Nathan Cochran.
“Xavier is delighted to introduce men’s and women’s soccer as we continue our expansion of varsity sport offerings.”
The school has announced that scholarships will be available for the student-athletes, and interest forms for the men’s and women’s teams have been added to the XULA athletics website. Cochran has also begun a national search for head coaches for both teams, and interested parties can submit their cover letter and resume online.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).