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Family of soccer transfer donates $5 million to new school

Published: February 7, 2013, 7:47 pm ET
Collegian Reporter

The parents of a former Richmond soccer player gave DePauw University $5 million as their son prepared to transfer there after the Richmond soccer program was dropped.

Marshall Reavis gave the money to the soccer and lacrosse programs to fund a multipurpose stadium for the men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, their son Mitch, who left Richmond during winter break, said. Any remaining money will be put toward the school’s financial aid program, according to information provided by DePauw University.

Brian W. Carey, DePauw president, announced Reavis’ decision on Nov. 8, according to information provided by DePauw University, less than two months after Jim Miller, athletic director at the time, informed the players that soccer would be cut. Mitch did not commit to DePauw until finals week and transferred during winter break, he said.

The gift will help ensure that DePauw continues to compete for the best student-athletes in the country, said Mitch’s father, who graduated from DePauw in 1984 and is now on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Although Mitch’s parents did not offer $5 million to Richmond, they did donate money and tried to garner support through media connections and letters to the Board of Trustees to save Richmond soccer, Reavis said.

If Marshall Reavis had spent $5 million here, he would have made a statement, but that would not have saved the program, Jim Popp, former UR soccer player and 1992 graduate, said.

At the soccer banquet last semester, the team’s final gathering, coach Leigh Cowlishaw said that the addition of the lacrosse program had drained the soccer program’s funds, and that the soccer and track teams would have needed $20 million to be reinstated, Mitch said.

The Carry the Flag coalition, a joint effort to save soccer and track, raised millions of dollars in about one month, and Popp said that he had expected to reach about $5 million, but the move was not successful.

Popp, an active leader in the coalition, with an additional interest in supporting women’s crew, as well as keeping lacrosse on campus, approached Paul Queally, a board member, who indicated to Popp that it would need at least $20 million to get the Board’s attention, Popp said.

When asked for comment, President Edward Ayers replied via email that he was unavailable for an interview because of his schedule.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any particular student situation,” Ayers wrote. “We’ve all seen and benefited from generous donors and recognize how important private philanthropy is in advancing institutions of higher education, and I commend Mr. Reavis on his generosity to this alma mater.”

When asked whether he thought the money should have been donated here to support the soccer program, junior Zac Brown said: “I think that is utterly inappropriate for anyone to be saying. … If the $5 million would’ve saved the soccer program at Richmond, I know for a fact his family would’ve put it up – I truly believe.”

Brown was the Spiders goalkeeper before transferring to Loyola University Chicago to continue playing soccer.

Mitch’s father was upset about Richmond soccer, but was not responsible for bailing out the administration after turning its back on the school’s athletes, Mitch said.

“The timing was really awkward because the plans for the new athletic facility at DePauw were in the works well before I arrived on the Richmond campus,” Mitch said. “There’s no way my dad was looking down the road saying, ‘Oh, well the program is going to get cut – I should save the money.’”

Mitch’s parents were more concerned with him giving up his dreams of playing Division I soccer than with his commitment to their alma mater, he said. DePauw University is Division III.

Initially, Mitch felt as though he had to leave Richmond, but then struggled with the decision for about two weeks, he said.

It all felt like a cruel joke, Mitch said. He was able to hold himself together during the announcement, which was made hours before a game, but broke down during the drive to the pregame dinner, he said.

Although playing Spider soccer was no longer an option, Mitch said that he had loved his time at Richmond since arriving on campus, further complicating his decision.

“Obviously Richmond is where I wanted to be for four years,” he said. “At that level, I did fairly well my freshman year and it would’ve been cool to see how that progressed over the next three years.”

Mitch is one of five soccer players who have left Richmond, including redshirt sophomore Shane Powell, who has gone to three schools in two years. Powell spent the fall semester at Richmond after transferring from Providence College and now goes to Wake Forest University.

When Scott Byrnes, 1991 graduate, former Richmond soccer player and leader of the Carry the Flag Coalition, was asked whether he was continuing the effort to save Spider soccer, and whether he thought that effort would be successful, Byrnes said, “stay tuned.”

Contact reporter Jamie Edelen at jamie.edelen@richmond.edu

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