Cut teams deserve a chance

[media-credit id=81 align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Sims Cartoon[/media-credit]

By now most UW Oshkosh students know that both the men’s soccer and tennis teams are scheduled to be cut at the end of the year. The decision was made public in an April press release that few athletes or coaches could have predicted. Despite UWO Athletic Director Darryl Sims repeatedly declaring the decision final, both of the teams have demonstrated their ability to fund themselves–at least temporarily. By overcoming the University’s budget concerns, the teams have proven their commitment to UWO athletics and should be treated with the respect they deserve.

During an all-athletics photoshoot on Sept. 16, UWO men’s soccer showed its determination to save the team by wearing T-shirts that proudly displayed its slogan #saveuwosoccer. After refusing to remove the shirts, the team was asked to leave the premises.

Determined to quickly quash the dissent, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt addressed the issue with a dismissive and painfully ironic response.

“The team decided to remove their issued T-shirt for the photograph,” Leavitt said. “All athletes wear the same shirt in this photo to symbolize the unity within athletics.”

It’s hard to imagine that the dozens of affected athletes felt any sort of unity that day, especially the men’s tennis team which, by fault of Sims, was mistakenly not invited to the event. Sims has since apologized, but many feel his words continue to ring hollow.

Junior tennis player Austin Laumb said the team was upset and confused when Sims failed to let them know of the photo shoot.
“We think his job should be looked into because we believe he can not handle the position he is in if he forgets about something that big,” Laumb said. “He also emailed me the day of the [photo shoot] and never mentioned it.”

Regardless of his intent, Sims’ actions are seemingly representative of the University’s attitude towards the two teams. Many athletes feel they had no part in the decision to cut the teams and that their concerns are consistently dismissed or ignored.

Sophomore Jordan Anderson said Sims was inconsistent and deceitful when answering questions that he and his teammates have raised. Anderson also said the men’s tennis budget is relatively small because the men’s and women’s tennis teams share the same coach.

Money doesn’t seem to be a problem for either of the teams. As news of the cuts spread, offers for donations to sustain the teams came in.

“Through our pledge campaign, we raised between $60,000 and $65,000,” junior soccer player Nick Woodbury said. “Donors ranged from friends and family to anonymous donors who just simply supported our cause.”

The men’s tennis team has had similar success in acquiring potential funding.

Junior tennis player Vinnie Gorski said that the team has raised money in the past to supplement its budget and it could be done again on a larger scale.

“Alumni, family members and people from many different communities have been supportive and have said they would help donate to try and keep the program afloat,” Gorski said. “We have had alumni contact the chancellor and the athletic director, offering to donate money that would pay for the program. One alumni has offered to donate enough money to almost pay for three full seasons of our program.”

Despite the best efforts of the team and the viable solutions they have proposed, the University has remained firm in its decision.

“I have always been very clear that this decision, while unfortunate, is final,” Sims said.

Senior soccer player Michael Dugan said he doesn’t see the downside to the teams attempt to fund itself.

“The University has repeatedly told us that a sport is not sustainable through fundraising,” senior soccer player Michael Dugan said. “We have responded to them by saying that we understand this, and when the fundraising efforts stop, then the program stops.”

Voicing similar concerns Woodbury said Sims isn’t willing to consider alternative solutions.

“At least in that scenario we gave it our best shot, and we as players would feel better about losing the program at that point knowing there was nothing else we could do,” Woodbury said. “We cited the UW-Lacrosse baseball program that was nearly cut a few years back, but fundraised to save the program and now just last year were runner up in the College World Series.
The funds are already there, and more would come if we were given the go ahead to use our fundraised dollars, but the administration is too hard-headed to work with us.”
With money seemingly available for both teams, the lack of a conference appears to be the University’s primary justification for cutting the teams. Players from both teams said they were disappointed with Sims lack of action when it came to searching for new conferences for the team.

“We as players wouldn’t be as upset if we truly knew and felt that our athletic director is doing everything in his power to help find us a conference so that our program will continue to thrive,” junior goalie Sam Gabrilska said. “With his recent discussion with us, we know that he has done nothing and will do nothing to help us.”

Some of the athletes are even considering transferring to another university.

“A large number of my teammates, especially the younger guys, have plans to transfer either after this fall semester or at the end of the year if the cuts remain,” Woodbury said. “If we want to increase enrollment here at UWO, why cut a program that consistently brings successful students to this university?”

It is clear that players from both of the teams are thoroughly dissatisfied with how the cuts have been handled by the University. Men’s soccer and tennis both deserve a fair chance to save their programs. UWO should at the very least explore options that allow the teams to continue to play until fundraising efforts dry up or until future budgets allocate their expenses. If the University expects athletes to line up and smile while their team is stolen out from under them, it will be a long semester for everyone.