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Alumni highlighting deceit in effort to revive track and soccer

Published: November 1, 2012, 12:29 am ET
Online Editor

The alumni of the recently cut Richmond men’s soccer and track and field teams have continued their strategic planning efforts, with large parts of those efforts culminating right before Homecoming Weekend.

On Tuesday, eight track alumni published and distributed a 28-page paper, titled “An Examination of the University of Richmond’s 2012 Athletic Department Reconfiguration.”

In the paper, the alumni highlight why outdoor track should be reinstated, citing sources for all research and claims, while indoor track and soccer should be given an opportunity to raise the funds needed to remain along with the addition of a women’s sport.

“We’re just trying to organize everything that we’ve heard from Dr. [Edward] Ayers and his chief of staff [Lori Schuyler] and [Athletic Director] Jim Miller,” said Jon Molz, 2008 track alumnus and current assistant coach for the track and cross country teams. “Gather everything we’ve heard them say in regard to the reconfiguration from both sides of it, not just necessarily seeking out contradictions.”

But five pages of the paper are dedicated to “An Examination of the Provided Information — Deception, Contradictions, Inaccuracies and Flaws.”

Ayers did not respond to an email request for comment on the paper, and Miller responded that he had not had a chance to look at it yet.

The men’s soccer alumni have also noted some contradictions.

On Wednesday, soccer alumni published “8 Easy Steps to Establishing a Varsity Lacrosse Program” onto their website, carrytheflag.weebly.com, under the tab, “Web of Deceit.” This publication will serve as a prelude to a Carry the Flag press conference, headed by soccer alumnus Scott Byrnes, a 1991 graduate, at 1 p.m. on Friday in Room 120 of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

Byrnes said he had heard other alumni say soccer and track alumni had been overreacting.

“They say, ‘The university canceled a couple sports programs, so what? It happens all the time,’” Byrnes said. “But it’s not about that per se. It’s the way it was done, and I think when people see exactly how it was orchestrated and why and who, I think they’re going to realize why we’re so upset.”

The press conference has been moved around numerous times during the past two weeks, Byrnes said. The reason for the delays was because the alumni were waiting for an article in The Washington Post to be published that would disclose a lot of the information that will be revealed on Friday, he said.

“A Post reporter spent two and a half weeks interviewing dozens of people, gathering extensive research, and he wrote a pretty long feature article, which he submitted to his editor for publication over two weeks ago,” Byrnes said. “We’ve been waiting every day for the last two weeks for that article to be published, and it hasn’t.”

Because the reporter was offered an exclusive story, the alumni made a commitment to not reveal any information in a press conference before the paper broke the news, Byrnes said.

Byrnes said he and the other alumni could not wait any longer because track and soccer team members were evaluating transfer options.

“We have a strong suspicion that the article has been squashed by the very people that we’re up against,” he said, but didn’t have any evidence to back up that claim.

The conference was postponed again because Byrnes was told that there would be a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, and he hoped the Board members would reconsider and reinstate track and soccer at that time, he said.

The secretary to the board was unable to be reached for confirmation of this meeting. Junior Amanda Lineberry, a student representative for academic affairs and enrollment management, who is present at four board meetings per year, said that if there was a meeting scheduled, student representatives had not been invited.

Yesterday, the members of the Richmond College Student Government Association approved an official resolution about student involvement in decision-making at the university drafted by freshman senator Harry Lambert. The resolution expressed RCSGA’s strong opposition to the exclusion of students from the decision to eliminate the sports and recommended greater transparency and student representation at Board meetings in the future.

In the soccer alumni’s “Web of Deceit” post, Richmond’s Vice President of Advancement, Tom Gutenberger, was mentioned for the first time in association with the sports cuts.

Gutenberger did not immediately respond to a request for an interview after a message was left with his secretary.

The post states that members of the soccer alumni steering committee met with Gutenberger last spring, one month after this decision to cut soccer was apparently made, to talk about designs and costs for an on-campus soccer stadium.

“Gutenberger reiterated that he did not believe men’s soccer was in jeopardy of being cut,” the post states. “Unbeknownst to the soccer alumni until recently, Tom Gutenberger was in the April 2012 board meeting!”

Gutenberger was also a member of the sports mix committee that recommended these changes, Byrnes said. Gutenberger has since not responded to questions from alumni regarding the matter, Byrnes said.

The formation of the track and field paper — headed by Molz, Jim McKeon (’85), Matthew Blanchard (’95), Andrew Blanchard (’97), Seann Mulcahy (’04), Neil Slotterback (’08), Michael Stubbs (’08) and Andrew Benford (’11) – hoped to provide a better solution, Molz said.

One argument made in the paper is that the termination of the outdoor track program has nothing to do with the addition of the lacrosse program. It also explains why the cross-country program will suffer without a supplemental track team. The paper also includes criticism of the athletic department having made the decision without knowing specifically where the 20 extra spots would be allotted.

Other points made in the paper include: disparaging Ayers’s claim that the university’s makeup of 13 percent in all incoming classes is the highest among schools we compete with for students; why the cuts are just a loophole and not in the true spirit of Title IX, and how that reflects badly on the school’s image, and the poor precedent this decision is making on the world of college lacrosse.

The track and field paper can be found on the wearerichmondtrackandfield.org website.

(Note: Since this article was written, The Washington Post has released its article.)

Contact staff writer David Weissman at david.weissman@richmond.edu

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  • Mark Sakalosky

    How long will it take for Ayers, Miller and Gutenberg to respond to the students, faculty and alumni? Gentlemen, you have a responsibility to serve the best interests of these constituents. Ignoring them is abdication of that responsibility.

  • Ray Troy

    The Post article was most likely quashed because that is a national news publication, and this is barely local news. As you admit, there’s no evidence that the administration intervened, nor any mechanism by which they could have. Gotta love accusations with no evidence.