The absence of University of Richmond President Edward Ayers and Athletic Director Jim Miller at the game was spineless and pathetic, said the angry father of one of the players of the men’s soccer team. He refused to give his name to The Collegian in order to protect his son’s reputation.
Despite the president’s and athletic director’s absence, the soccer team was welcomed onto the field by the support and encouragement of many cheering students that are against the decision to terminate the program, a decision announced about four hours earlier. Many students brought signs and posters in protest of the decision made by the Board of Trustees. Some of them read, “Save Spider Soccer” and “Keep Spider Soccer.”
The men’s track team, who also received notice of the termination of their program, were also there to support the soccer team.
“We are still in shock about everything that has happened and have not been given a lot of information as to why,” said Matthew Barudin, a freshman on the track and field team, “but we wanted to show our support for this team,”
The cuts were made as a result of Title IX, which requires an equal amount of money and scholarships allotted to men’s and women’s athletics on college campuses. With the athletics department electing to bring the men’s lacrosse team up to varsity level, the decision was made to cut two varsity men’s teams instead of bringing on another women’s team.
“They keep telling us that Title IX is the reason behind the cuts, but I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” said Deborah Fajuyigbe, a sophomore on the women’s track and field team. Other women varsity athletes spoke to The Collegian during the game about the cuts.
When The Collegian asked the women athletes what they thought the reason was behind the cuts, they answered in perfect unison: “Money.”
“It’s all about money, power and the elite,” they said.
Parents gathered after the game to show support for their sons and the other team members that played.
“I think it is a disgrace, especially to the freshman players who have chosen this school over others and turned down many opportunities that are now gone,” another angry father of a player said. He too, wished to remain anonymous for his son’s sake.
“My son had an opportunity to try out for a professional team overseas, but he wanted to come here to play for this school and receive an education here,” he said.
Some of the underclassman players are keeping their options open, said Colby Abrahamoff, a sophomore defender.
“This is what we do and who we are, and they are taking that away from us,” Abrahamoff said. “I think transferring is definitely an option for some of my teammates.”
Despite hearing the news just before their game, the team defeated the Virginia Military Institute Keydets, 2-0, and played some of their best soccer all season, interim coach Leigh Cowlishaw said.
“We talked about the fact that you can decide you’re a victim or take charge of your destiny and move forward,” Cowlishaw said. “They have all committed to making it a memorable season on and off the field, and that was a fantastic start for them.”
“We were all devastated upon hearing the news,” said Nick Butler, a sophomore defender, “but we really came together and worked together to make this a successful game.
“We wanted to prove something to our friends and our supporters and the people who really care about us and this team.”
All players on athletic scholarships with the university have been offered financial aid to cover the remaining seasons they promised to play, but many questions the team has have been left unanswered.
Zac Brown, a junior goalkeeper, said he wondered why the two teams with the highest GPA’s have had their programs terminated.
Barudin also questioned why the track and field team had been cut after its success in previous years.
According to a statement emailed to The Collegian this afternoon by the men’s track and field team, players questioned what qualities the Board of Trustees and Athletics Department looked for in Richmond sports teams.
According to the statement, in 2010 the cross country team won the A-10 Championship and qualified for the NCAA Championships, where it placed 24th in the nation. In spring 2011, the outdoor track and field team achieved the highest GPA of any team in the NCAA and had been named an Academic All-American team in cross country, indoor and outdoor track for the past 10 seasons. The team has achieved all of this without having any athletes on scholarship.
“I think it’s embarrassing that a school with over a billion dollar endowment is turning on its students like this and cutting two of the teams with the best GPA’s in the athletic department,” Brown said. “At this point, we are trying to do everything we can to stay positive and really leave a legacy behind after this season.”
Contact staff writer Nabila Khouri at firstname.lastname@example.org