During the recent decision to cut both men’s soccer and track and field, the appointed task-force had reportedly considered advancing a women’s club team to varsity status, specifically volleyball or crew, instead of the cuts, said Jim Miller (director of athletics), in an interview shortly after the announcement was made.
“If a bunch of girls are getting together saying they want to play for Division I volleyball or crew,” freshman Olivia Dulmage said, “and the school makes a change for boys, then I think that would be wrong. But I haven’t really seen a huge interest for women’s sports, so I think it’s OK.”
Although she is a member of the women’s club volleyball team, Dulmage said that she would not have continued playing if the team had been promoted to varsity status.
“Just because I signed up for club doesn’t mean I signed up for DI volleyball,” she said. “I specifically chose not to go to schools that I could’ve maybe played DI for.”
If the school had decided to move the team to varsity status, but also to maintain another volleyball team at the club level, Dulmage would have welcomed the change, she said. But, she does not think that this change will start with her team.
Club crew members may not have been prepared for such a change either, sophomore rower William Meier said. If the decision had been made to advance women’s crew, rowers would have to be more committed to be competitive at the Division I level, he said.
“We would’ve been ecstatic if that had happened,” said junior Jennifer Billings, vice president of the crew team. “However, we are dedicated to working the best we can and achieving the most success at this level. We’re very comfortable here at the championship club level.”
Based on last year’s record, the team is definitely reaching the point of Division III status, Meier said, and within the last year, the rowers have taken many steps to build the team.
The team recently gained a new coach who has implemented a new tryout process, Billings said.
Tryouts do not cut players, but instead, allow the coaches to determine the best possible lineups in order to compete.
Although content with the team’s current status, it would have been beneficial to have more resources that come with the varsity level, Billings said.
Between boats and travel, the resources required for crew are expensive, Billings said, so she understood why the school would be hesitant to engage in such a large investment.
The crew team probably receives the most school funding out of any club team, Meier said, and to move up in status, the team would probably need about two or three new boats, ranging from about $30,000 to $40,000 each.
As a coed team, the male and female students practice and compete together, Billings said. Both Billings and Meier agree that the coed makeup of the team had never raised any concerns.
“There are definitely no inequalities on the team; coach works to make everyone happy,” Billings said. “There’s never a question of women getting more attention than men or anything like that. All the equipment is the same, training is the same, and attention from our coach is the same.”
Men’s crew is not recognized as a varsity sport by the NCAA, Meier said, said if the women were moved up to varsity status, the men would technically remain on a club team. Both said they were unsure how such a change would have affected the dynamic of their team.
But, as a member of a coed team, Billings said, she could relate to the female athletes on track and field, who will no longer practice with the male students on the team. “It will be hard morale wise,” she said. “These guys who are their best friends won’t be at school anymore, training with them anymore. I feel like it’s going to take something away from them.”
Contact reporter Jamie Edelen at firstname.lastname@example.org