2010 analysis, Title IX issues key team cuts

Austin Walther

A 2010 analysis and 2014 financial audit showed that 21 sports teams were too many for UW Oshkosh, resulting in the April 6 announcement of two programs being cut from the athletic department. Men’s soccer and men’s tennis will be the two teams concluding after the 2015-16 season, giving everyone affected enough time to figure out his future. A UWO athletic department April 6 press release stated with a rise in operating costs and a tighter budget, Oshkosh figured this was the most appropriate time to go about this process so it is able to support the remaining programs to its fullest ability. A major factor that went into making this decision were the guidelines from Title IX, which was established in 1972 to prevent gender discrimination among athletic programs. Once soccer and tennis are phased out, male student athletes will go from 58 percent to 55 percent and women student athletes will go from 42 percent to 44 percent. After the analysis on the athletic department in 2010 was complete, UW Oshkosh released an intercollegiate athletics strategic plan on May 9, 2011. “State funding for athletics continues to decline,” the report said. “Student government funding will not likely grow at a pace necessary to replace lost state funds.” The opening statement concludes by warning the athletic department that a cut of a few programs may occur in the future and continues with that idea on page seven of the final draft. “It does not appear that the current program can be sustained as is,” page seven of the report stated. “Either the program needs to be restructured or some programs need to be eliminated (or both).” Further on, the final draft suggests setting up a tiered structure for athletic programs or developing criteria used to eliminate programs based on NCAA participation, revenue potential and Title IX. Head coach of the men’s soccer team Wyste Molenaar said he was aware of the study in 2010, but figured it wouldn’t come up since the study was done five years ago. “We made a couple minor changes,” Molenaar said. “There were no direct consequences and nobody expected that any sports were going to be cut.” For men’s tennis head coach Daniel Bickett, this is his first year at Oshkosh and was unaware of the 2010 analysis. The 2014 Audit Plan was approved by the Audit Committee of the Board of Regents of the UW System, which conducted an audit related to UW Oshkosh’s athletic department. The internal audit was conducted to evaluate the design and effectiveness of the process related to various aspects of Division III athletics at Oshkosh, including evaluating the department in higher risk areas. Overall, the audit identified eight observation categories, offered suggestions to the University and said the issues could become a problem if not addressed. Another reason for this reduction is because men’s tennis and men’s soccer don’t have conference championships and automatic qualifications to the NCAA tournament. In order for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to have a conference championship, they need five schools to participate. As of now, soccer has three and tennis has four. For an automatic qualifier, the conference would need seven teams. Molenaar said those were the only reasons he was given for the abolition of his sport. “I met with [athletic director] Darryl Sims on Monday in his office,” Molenaar said. “The only focus was on that we didn’t have a conference championship and that we don’t send an automatic qualifier.” Assistant Vice Chancellor Jamie Ceman, who spoke on behalf of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and Sims, said Sims was quick to respond when he heard the athletic department was going to take a hit. “The catalyst was the state budget announcement that the UW System would be facing a $300 million budget reduction in the 2015-17 state budget,” Ceman said. Bickett said when he heard about the budget cuts, he began to feel nervous because two universities just cut their tennis programs. “I didn’t think cutting the tennis program was in the foreseeable future when I took the job,” Bickett said. “But when they announced the budget cuts, I was afraid for tennis.” While those around knew about the UW Systems audit, however, they weren’t aware that it was going to affect any athletic programs. “I knew about the audit in 2014,” Molenaar said. “I didn’t think it was going to do anything to the athletic department.” Molenaar said the largest issue right now is that he and everyone else feel like they’re in the dark. “We are all more confused and curious than anything,” Molenaar said. “Many others share the same feeling and are calling me and asking what is going on.” As for the tennis program,it has asked to do fundraising to save the program. “Many alumni are willing to donate money,” Bickett said. “It’s sad and frustrating because that’s not open for an idea.” Molenaar also said he wanted to clear a few things up with the rest of the sports on campus. “The players and I are not opposed to any program,” Molenaar said. “We are in full support of everyone here at UW Oshkosh.”