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VP of Advancement responds to soccer alumni’s accusations

Published: November 8, 2012, 1:28 am ET
Online Editor

Vice President for Advancement Tom Gutenberger, a major target of criticism by men’s soccer alumni during last Friday’s press conference, was surprised by the allegations made against him, he wrote in an email.

“At no time did anyone from the soccer alumni group tell me that they thought I acted in anything but good faith throughout the process,” he wrote. “At every step in the process, I was honest with the alumni group with my assessment of the situation.

“There was never any attempt to mislead the soccer alumni.”

At the press conference, and on the men’s soccer alumni’s Carry the Flag website, Scott Byrnes, a 1991 graduate, accused Gutenberger of telling soccer alumni that the program was not in jeopardy after being in attendance at the April meeting where the Board of Trustees determined it would be cut.

Gutenberger even said the university had been considering on-campus locations for a soccer stadium, Byrnes said.

“After the April meeting of the Board of Trustees, I was approached by two members of the soccer alumni group to meet,” Gutenberger wrote. “They told me they had heard soccer was safe. I said that the recommendation was to remain status quo at this time, but that anything could happen in the future.

“They asked me about raising money for an on-campus stadium and showed me a drawing of a stadium from another university. I told them, as I had in a prior meeting, a soccer stadium was not included in the recently completed master plan.”

As a member of the sports-mix task force that recommended the cuts to the board, Gutenberger provided data from an alumni relations, development and communications point of view, he wrote.

“During that process, I advised the task force that the elimination of any sport or program would be difficult for advancement, likely angering certain alumni, resulting in the loss of philanthropic support,” he wrote.

In meetings with soccer alumni, Gutenberger expressed his preference not to eliminate sports, given the inevitable challenges it would present for advancement, but he cautioned that anything could happen, he wrote.

“This is the exact message I relayed each time I spoke with soccer supporters as well as people interested in other sports,” Gutenberger wrote.

Gutenberger supports the decision, he wrote, but understands the disappointment felt by the men’s soccer and track alumni.

Byrnes said that Gutenberger had not responded to questions from alumni regarding the matter. Gutenberger denies that claim.

“Prior to the formal announcement regarding the elimination of soccer and track on the day the decision was made, I called a number of soccer supporters to tell them of the decision and answer any questions they had,” Gutenberger wrote. “Since the decision, I have spoken with many soccer and track alumni and attended the soccer game on Oct. 5 in Robins Stadium, where I met and spoke with a number of alumni, including Mr. Byrnes.”

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

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  • Scott Byrnes

    Sadly, more spin. Unfortunately, I don’t have any emails that document the conversation that Jim Brady and I had with Tom Gutenberger in his office on 5/18/2012. In that conversation Tom said he couldn’t guarantee anything, but he believed soccer was not in jeopardy of being cut. He also said, in response to the detailed stadium design and itemized cost information that Jim and I provided him, that the administration was evaluating spots for a soccer stadium.

    Once again, like president Ayers has in the past, Tom has carefully chosen his words: “I told them, as I had in a prior meeting, a soccer stadium was not included in the recently completed master plan.” Tom’s statement is factually accurate; a soccer stadium was not included in the recently completed master plan. That does not change the fact that Tom told us on 5/18 that they were evaluating places for a soccer stadium.

    What I do have, however, and what clearly lays out the facts, is an email from Jim Brady to the soccer alumni dated August 21, 2012. This email documents a conversation that Jim had with Tom Gutenberger that morning. The following is the unabridged content of that email:

    “Guys, just a quick update…I met this morning with Tom
    Gutenberger (was at my request). He wanted to get an update from me
    (ironic) on the coaching situation as well as give me an update from what he is
    hearing. Overall, I think the program is fine. LAX has some
    vocal donors but it doesn’t have real support due to the fact no one wants
    anything cut. Actually, they have talked more about adding women’s sports
    (crew potentially) if LAX comes about but he didn’t think it was likely.
    Also, lots of field discussions around soccer and the debate is now centered
    around lights or no lights. It looks like it may go by River Road and the
    thoughts are now centered around getting a grass field is more important than
    having night games (problem with the neighbors on RRd)…this is positive
    discussion. Overall, he couldn’t guarantee anything but doesn’t feel like
    soccer is any danger of being cut. I’ve also talked with Bobby Ukrop
    several times and he is a big fan of Olympic Sports and particularly soccer…he
    is a very outspoken UR trustee. Tom said Dr. Ayers was aware I was
    meeting with Tom and I encouraged Tom to set something up with him if it was
    needed. He is going to get back to me after he catches up with
    Ayers. That’s all for now…Best, Jimbo”

    These are the documented facts. Anyone tired of being misled or spun can access all the facts here: http://carrytheflag.weebly.com/press-conference-speech.html

    I would like to set the record straight on one other point. Tom did, in fact, reach out to several of the soccer alumni on the day the announcement to cut men’s soccer and track was made. He has made himself available to any and all soccer alumni who have come to him with concerns following the decision. He took the time to speak with me directly on October 5th, at the men’s soccer game that night, which I greatly appreciated. I’m not sure where the comment from me saying Tom Gutenberger has not responded to questions from alumni regarding the matter comes from. If I ever said that, it was either out of context or I was simply wrong.

    Unfortunately, Tom’s transparency following the decision does not change the fact that he, either wittingly or unwittingly, grossly misled the soccer alumni up until the day the decision to drop men’s soccer and track was publicly announced.

    • Anita Schneider

      Scott, You are being polite in calling this “spin.” Let’s be direct and call it what it is – deception and dishonesty. Mr. Gutenberger, we alumni are perceptive enough to understand what has happened. We understand that you were in an unenviable position and felt you had a duty to the University to defend its interests as well as a position to protect. You may have disliked having to mislead the alumni but the facts show that you did it. You may or may not be sorry and I am sure you are not happy that this has become a public issue. But you made your choice and the resulting picture is quite clear. Don’t try now to put lipstick on the pig.

  • Mark Sakalosky

    Mr. Gutenberger – you and the rest of the members of the administration that were involved in this decision willfully turned your backs on fifty-three (53) young men that are current students at the University of Richmond in order to cater to the desires of a single alumnus with a large checkbook.

    Did any member of the administration at any time ask themselves what impact this decision might have on the fifty-three (53) young men who are already a vital part of the University of Richmond community? Did any member of the administration point out that the University’s reputation would be irreparably harmed by accepting millions of dollars in donations from Mr. Queally while simultaneously casting fifty-three (53) students aside?

    Those fifty-three (53) young men are a vital part of the University of Richmond community. They have done nothing less than represent the University of Richmond with dignity and earned the right to be treated with respect. I find it outrageous that the administration would disregard these students in order to add another large check to Richmond’s already overflowing coffers ($1.88 Billion endowment).

    Mr. Gutenberger, you were hired to serve in the best interests of the students, faculty and alumni. You had the responsibility of protecting and enhancing the value of a University of Richmond education. You have failed all of us.

  • MC 98

    AB, why are you jumping on all these columns in The Collegian and asking people to stop creating awareness about this? You say in both of your replies that you are upset about the decision, also, but then you ask those who are trying to take action to….well, stop taking action. If you believe for a second that this process was not the product of covert special interest pandering by our University Leadership, you are naive. If you think that the manner in which the Univeristy has carried out this process is honorable and in keeping with UR values, then you and I do not know the same UR. The players complicit in this need to be held publicly accountable.

  • MC 98

    AB,

    Have you read the Track Alumni white paper? It is a nicely prepared paoer raising some of the same concerns, but there are some differences that make it worth reading. The executive summary has some pretty important facts. The one that disturbs me the most is this: Lacrosse boosters were offered an exclusive opportunity to raise funds to close the gap needed that U of R would not fund to make LAX a varsity support. Soccer and Track supporters were not offered a similar opportunity to help fund an alternate solution to allow all teams continue. If you change this part of the equation, then it really just becomes about the student athlete ratio which is a complete red herring. The title 9 piece is the easiest part to solve if the money is there and school leadership is open to making all stakeholders happy – but they are not. They are operating in a world of scarcity rather than abundance (ironic for such a wealthy school); they are saying it must be either/or and cannot be and/both. Where I work, executives who think that way get fired pretty quickly because their stakeholders are not happy with their decision making and the results. These guys are really comfortable with the idea of “we and our small group of like minded friends know what is best for this school – and we make the rules, so it is really pretty black and white once we’ve decided…”. I have frankly taken my UR diploma off the wall in my house eight now…it is an embarrassment.

    I am not challenging your info about the student athlete admissions benchmarking, can you do us all the same courtesy of citing your source. It is very specific, so it certainly sounds credible. I was und the understanding that the schools cited in Byrnes’s presentation were those provided to Dr. Myers by the UR admissions office. Why would we have any reason not to think that information was factual?

  • MC 98

    AB,

    A couple of last thoughts about your demand for “proof”of buying the University, back room deals, etc:
    1. Why don’t you demand proof that it did NOT happen. There is a large amount of circumstantial evidence that clearly points to a closed process led by a committee of myopic thinkers to arrive at the sports mix recommendation and decision. University leadership will not share any of the analysis or data they used to “look at this thing from every possible angle.”. Any good business analyst can make the data support whatever point they are trying to make – hence the adage lies, damn lies, and statistics. It is especially easy when you don’t share your analysis with stakeholders of the decision.

    2. In case you missed it, one of the biggest heroes in World Sports history was recently discredited of his entire career body of work due to an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to the fact that he cheated. There was no smoking gun or “proof.” Never failed a drug test. My point is this – where there is smoke, there is fire. There is a pretty convincing amount of circumstantial evidence that this was a shady deal, and that there is conflict of interest going on at high levels of decision making. If you want proof of something, I’d like to see proof that is NOT the case – why would you believe that it wasn’t without the proof?

    3. In the comments section of the Daddy University article – another poster pointed out something that is pretty close to proof if you need it. I imagine that privacy controls are being changed and posts are being deleted as we speak, but if you go view the Facebook pages of Paul Queally and his friends over the course of this past year, the conversation is pretty clear.

  • DA

    Tom is an honest hard working respected leader of our University. He gave his recommendation, but this is much bigger than one vote…