In a Target commercial that aired during the coverage of the summer Olympics, an excited high school senior opens his acceptance letter to attend the University of Richmond.
That high school senior, Tim Gruber, is now a freshman and a member of the men’s track and field team. Along with many of his teammates, he is now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to transfer.
Since the news of the termination, six of the nine freshmen on the men’s track and field team have been released from their contracts with the university, with three more awaiting release, head coach Steve Taylor said.
“Some of the boys have already been contacted by many universities,” Taylor said.
Although the men’s cross country program will remain, both Gruber and Taylor agree that without the track and field program, the cross country program will weaken.
“It’s like going into a test and only being allowed to answer 50 percent of the questions,” Taylor said. “It isn’t fair when you’ve studied and practiced all of the material.
“You can’t have cross country without track.”
Gruber has already spoken to several coaches from other universities, who have shown interest in having him join their program.
“So far, I’ve spoken to coaches at Boston College, Wake Forest University, Davidson College, University of Connecticut and Sewanee,” Gruber said.
Other members thinking about transferring have also spoken to coaches at the College of William and Mary, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University, Taylor said.
According to an email sent to The Collegian from the director of media and public relations, Brian Eckert, if all the affected athletes decided to transfer it would bring the retention rate down 1.5 percent.
“Given the university’s outstanding reputation on so many other fronts, we do not believe that a temporary reduction in the retention rate would have any adverse impact,” Eckert said.
But Taylor and Gruber question how this will affect the university’s ability to attract other athletes, especially for the cross country program.
“After hearing the news, some of the prospective student athletes withdrew their verbal commitment to us,” Taylor said. “Six out of seven of our top recruits are no longer interested in attending the university.”
Of the nine male freshmen on the track and field team, Gruber thinks eight are considering transferring.
“We’ve all agreed to stay at Richmond, as long as they keep the outdoor track and field program,” Gruber said. “That’s all we’re asking for.”
Taylor said: “Our indoor track season is very short, so if we kept the outdoor program it would still be beneficial to us. Our athletes have always really excelled in outdoor track and field.”
If the outdoor track and field program was to remain, the team could still participate in indoor track meets but they would not be able to participate in NCAA indoor track and field competitions, Taylor said.
Gruber also agreed that if the university kept the outdoor program, it could establish itself as a leading university in track and field and cross country.
Although neither Taylor nor Gruber knew if any of the women track and field athletes had plans to transfer, they were sure that the termination of the men’s program would have adverse effects on their team.
“One of my biggest reasons for choosing Richmond was the family-feel of the team,” Gruber said. “Even now when we travel to meets, every other university has separate tents for their men’s and women’s teams, but Richmond track is always together.”
Gruber’s parents also said how disheartening the news of the termination was, especially after the team had become so close.
“Our sadness comes from knowing this is now being taken away from Tim, and the rest of the team that have truly become a family,” Dana Gruber, Tim’s mother, said.
Dana Gruber and her husband, Chris Gruber, are both graduates of Richmond, and Chris served as the director of admissions at the university for 20 years.
“As students, we felt we were at a place that upheld high ethical standards,” Dana Gruber said. “We believed that same code of ethics was still in place at UR as our son enrolled.
“But based on the way this entire decision has been handled, we are now questioning this belief.”
Tim applied early decision to the university and applied nowhere else, he said.
“I didn’t even look anywhere else,” Gruber said, “I had my heart set on Richmond.”
The Target commercial featured him in a home video, originally shot by his father, on the day his acceptance letter came in the mail.
The home video was later put on YouTube, and the Gruber family was contacted by Target Corp shortly after, in the hopes that they would allow the corporation to use the video.
“When the video started to make its way around YouTube, I hesitated at allowing Target to use it,” Tim said, “but I decided to go along with it, in support of the university.”
Tim was also approached by the Washington Post, which did a story on the video and his acceptance to Richmond.
“I made it clear after speaking with the Washington Post and Target that I didn’t want any personal gain from the commercial or the article,” Tim said. “I just wanted to promote and benefit UR.
“But in return, I got my team taken away.”
“I’ve got lots of good friends and teammates here, and coach Taylor’s program has taught me so much, Tim said. “But I also want to be somewhere that I am appreciated both as a student and as an athlete. I don’t want to leave Richmond.”
Contact staff writer Nabila Khouri at firstname.lastname@example.org