On Wednesday March 24th the UVM Athletic Department announced the cancellation of four varsity teams and the reinstatement of Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track. The teams being let go include Men and Women’s Tennis, Men’s Golf, and Men’s Swimming.
“The goal with this plan is to create a culture of excellence, both in the classroom and on the field, that is conducive to student-athletes having an exceptional experience at the University of Vermont,” commented Athletic Director Dr. Robert Corran. “Under this plan, we will set higher expectations for academic and athletic success for all varsity sports, but we will also be in a better position to establish more equality in the way we support those programs.”
At the end of the 2001-2002 academioc year, the Athletic Department made a similar move when it reduced the number of varsity sports from 27 to 22. The teams discontinued included Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics, Women’s Volleyball, and Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track. Two part-time head coaches, three part-time assistant coaches, and sixty athletes lost their positions as a result of the cuts made. None of the five sports had a full-time coach or offered scholarships. However, all had minimal operating expenses.
Although the Athletic Department’s March 24th’s decision to re-asses current varsity sports and reallocated funding has found many within the administration supportive, there has been decidedly mixed reaction within the athletic community.
“I just can’t understand how so many winning and productive seasons have gone unnoticed and deemed unsuccessful,” explained a member of the Men’s Tennis Team, Brendan Matthews. The team has had only four losing seasons in the past 23 years of the programs history. “I just want to play the game I love, but UVM has taken that away from me in an effort to ‘better’ the Athletic Department at the expense of student-athletes. I feel like a statistic in the department’s budget, not a person.”
The financial motivation behind the move by the Athletic Department is expected to increase scholarship support for incoming and current student-athletes. Currently, the Athletic Department provides 82 scholarships equaling $2.4 million distributed between eight different sports teams. The realignment is expected to increase the number of scholarships to 124 totaling $3.7 million that will be spread across 20 sports over the next five years.
The department also plans on funneling money from the realignment towards strengthening recreational sporting opportunities. The move will also provide more adequate operational assistance to teams to help with their recruiting and travel expenses. Also eliminated, will be the tier system that was previously in place, which set different expectations per-sport and allocated resources accordingly.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the resources that would be needed to support those programs adequately,” said Corran. “Maintaining programs that are not funded at a Division I level and don’t have a reasonable chance to succeed is not in the best interest of our student-athletes.” Added Corran: “Impact on the full-time coaching staff will not be substantial.”
A total of 45 student-athletes will be as a result of the program elimintations. However, 30 student-athletes will be brought back due to the reinstatement of men’s indoor and outdoor track.
David Moore, the coach of the men’s tennis team, assured his team that the cutbacks were not their fault. After the announcement was made he told them that “they had done everything right,” amid what little funding and support they already enjoyed. He also made it clear that the Athletic Department’s decision should not cast a shadow over all that the team had accomplished during his four years as head coach because “it has always been about us.”
As part of his ten year vision, President Fogel has emphasised his efforts to build a strong intercollegiate athletic base here at UVM. He hopes that this will provide the university with greater appeal to incoming applicants. “For many people, athletis are the window on the university. Once you have that window open, you can showcase many other things.”
This past year the school has implemented a $75 athletic fee onto every students’ tuition. This provides the student body with free admission to all UVM varsity sporting events. Regardless of student attendance, the overall fee brings in an extra $1.2 million to the Athletic Department.UVM is not the only college that has made athletic budgeting cutbacks. A few of the other schools currently facing the same decision include Illinois University, Brown University, and Eastern Tennessee College. The sports span from volleyball to tennis to speed skating.
Many schools are faced by such decisions because of the 1972 law, Title IX. The law, now over thirty years old, was intended to prohibit federally funded institutions from practicing gender discrimination in both academics and athletics.
In 1999, MIT made the decision to eliminate all of their junior varsity sports teams, many claim due to the 1972 Title IX decision that has seen renewed importance wihin the past ten years. While some attributed the cuts to budgetary constraints, others felt that the proportionality between genders, required by Title IX, unfairly forced many men’s teams to be left behind in an effort to comply.
The athletic director at the time, Richard A. Hill, told The MIT Tech that “Lots of [team] costs are associated with squad size and travel size, including the cost of purchasing uniforms, washing grays, and staffing sports medicine. However, constraints with numbers are an effort to respond to both financial and gender equity issues.”
While the UVM Athletic Department hopes the decision will send athletics here at the university on the fast track to success, many students are left to ponder the fall out and reprecussions of such cuts.”