richmond_goarmy_728x90

What if Richmond kept the track and field team?

Published: October 25, 2012, 12:05 am ET
Collegian Contributor

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a crisp November afternoon and the fallen leaves were crunching beneath our feet as we made our way down Westham Station.

I was out for a run with fellow Spiders Matt Llano, Jonny Wilson and Tim Quinn. We had just finished a very respectable 8th place at the 2008 NCAA Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships.

Not bad for a team without a dime of scholarship money going up against the likes of perennial distance powerhouses North Carolina State, William & Mary, UVa. and Louisville University, to name a few. Llano had even placed 7th overall, an extremely impressive feat that qualified him for the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

As we settled into our pace, the conversation took a reflective turn as we discussed how our season had turned out. We had finished a disappointing 3rd at the Atlantic-10 Championship meet in a year that was ours for the taking. Though we were happy with our 8th place finish in one of the most competitive regions in the country, we still hadn’t really put Richmond on the map as a national contender.

We were knocking at the door, but what we really wanted was to kick the damn thing down. Llano, Wilson and I were juniors at the time, while Quinn was a sophomore.

We also had some young talent on the team and a few solid recruits joining us. With only one remaining year of eligibility for us juniors, it would be a pretty tall order for a non-scholarship program to jump from 8th to 4th in such a competitive region and to qualify for nationals.

We knew we could compete for a conference championship, but we wanted more. Then the wheels began to turn. Everyone had been thinking it, but finally someone said it, “Hey guys, what if we redshirted and did a 5th year?”

Our run to a 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championship berth, Atlantic-10 Championship and top-25 final ranking all started with a powerful, two-word, thought-provoking question: What if? The road was not easy, and the decision took sacrifice, faith, long-term vision, hard work and, quite frankly, guts. But, it paid off.

Isn’t that what achieving great things is all about? It’s not supposed to be easy. Someone later pointed out to me, “You know, you guys who redshirted could have gone to any school you wanted for that fifth year and run at nationals.”

Really? That idea never even occurred to me. I’m a Spider through and through! Look at what we had helped build! Look at what we had sacrificed! Why would I turn my back on my team, coach and university? That just sounded like a cheap shortcut to me.

As I write this, an alumnus nearly four years from that November run down Westham, I assumed that I would be proudly watching the University of Richmond cross country and track and field program continue to rise.

I even suspected that the university would perhaps reward us with a few athletic scholarships for our recent success. Instead, here I am fighting for the mere existence of my beloved program, asking myself the same question: What if?

What if the University of Richmond chose to be different?

What if the University of Richmond set a precedent by choosing to actually comply with Title IX? What I mean by this is, what if we did what Title IX was originally intended to do: provide equal opportunities for men and women?

What if, in the true spirit of Title IX, the University of Richmond added a women’s crew team along with a men’s lacrosse team? This would not be easy, but it could be done. And it could be great!
Wouldn’t the long-term positives far outweigh the short-term difficulties and overshadow all the negative attention the university has received due to its current decision to cut men’s track and field and soccer?

What if the university community were celebrating the addition of two new athletic programs right now, rather than grieving the loss of three?

What if the University of Richmond refused to follow the trend and distinguished itself from schools that search for loopholes, take shortcuts and consequently eliminate successful athletic programs?

What if the University of Richmond was being nationally recognized and praised as the school that finally got it right?

What if the University of Richmond had the guts to turn this thing around?

Related Article Topics

, ,
Comments »
To post a comment, leave your first and last name and a valid e-mail address. Comments may not appear immediately because they must be approved by a moderator before posting. No registration is required, but you may sign in with DISQUS, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, or OpenID.
  • Richmonder14

    I honestly think Ayers needs to go. I’ve been here for over two years and the way he conducted himself throughout the entire process is pitiful. As a man priding himself as a “students president”, he is showing his true colors and they do not shine in red and blue. Embarrassing that he is a Richmond President.

    • Ray Troy

      Please. Ayers has been an excellent President. There is a reason Richmond is one of the hottest liberal arts schools in the nation. Good decision or bad, you need to look beyond the track team.

      • Richmond’06

        Richmond was one of the hottest liberal arts schools in the nation before he came aboard. Ayers had little to no involvement in that designation. The university’s culture and a lot of other factors went into giving Richmond this designation. Just a nasty mark left on his tenure with this decision, and a bad taste left in the mouth of a bunch of alumni both athlete and non athlete. Get rid of this uppity chump.

  • JC (U or R Class of 2000)

    I read this with a lot of sadness. You could easily rewind the clock 10 years and substitute mens swimming and water polo in place of soccer and track. As a rising senior on the polo team when we got final word that the program had been cut I cannot reflect on my experience at Richmond without thinking about the school’s decision to cut rather than add program. I know that the U of R helped me to grow and the experiences I had there push me to continue learning and improving as I move through life. It does not seem like the University is learning and improving in the same way that they have tried to challenge so many graduates.

    • Ray Troy

      There are better ways of measuring the growth of a University than its’ sport teams.

      • JC (U or R Class of 2000)

        Yes, one would be how the school decides to spend it considerable budget to create opportunities for students. I learned and practiced just as many of the skills that help me to be successful in my career as a college athlete as I did in the classroom.

  • JC (U or R Class of 2000)

    I read this with a lot of sadness. You could easily rewind the clock 10 years and substitute mens swimming and water polo in place of soccer and track. As a rising senior on the polo team when we got final word that the program had been cut I cannot reflect on my experience at Richmond without thinking about the school’s decision to cut rather than add program. I know that the U of R helped me to grow and the experiences I had there push me to continue learning and improving as I move through life. It does not seem like the University is learning and improving in the same way that they have tried to challenge so many graduates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexbcollins Alex Collins

    Fabulous article and thoughts. Ayers and Miller are sneaky, underhanded, and serve not the two most important constituents of the school, the students and the faculty (as Ayers directly quoted in a q&a session after the announcement), but rather private interests, and the goals of those on the inside.
    I challenge either of them to an honest discussion, but that’s too much to ask.
    UR has a healthy endowment, is a top academic institution, and *could* be a top athletic institution in all sports. All it takes is commitment from the administration. The student-athletes have it, the coaches have it. What say you, Ayers?

    • Ray Troy

      He’ll probably say nothing if you’re just going to use ad hominem attacks to make your point. Ayers has played a large role in building our reputation as a top academic institution, and regardless of whether this was the right move, cutting the track team is a drop in a bucket compared to the other important decisions the University has made and will make. Academics first.