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 firstname.lastname@example.org