Following the announcement earlier this week that the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) would recommend the elimination of four of its five running programs, members of the school’s teams spent nearly three hours in a closed-door meeting with school administrators Thursday, the StarNews reports. While university officials were willing to discuss the proposal with current members of the team, the school’s interim chancellor, William Sederburg, told the StarNews that the cuts are “99 percent a done deal in my opinion.”
Under the proposal, UNCW would eliminate women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s cross country, and men’s outdoor track and field for financial reasons, while adding a women’s sand volleyball team. To remain eligible for Division I status, UNCW would keep its women’s cross country program. UNCW’s men’s indoor track and field program was eliminated earlier this year.
According to the StarNews, the current combined budget for men’s and women’s track and field is $595,061.
Junior pole vaulter Molly Love told the StarNews of the meeting, “There was that little hope that maybe they would catch on to something, but it was always just thrown back in our face. We had no power in changing anything,” said Love.
Sederburg told the StarNews, “My goal as interim here is to get some of these thorny issues behind the campus, so that the new chancellor can move on from there.”
The men’s cross country team, along with the school’s softball and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, were threatened in 2013, but the proposal to eliminate them was overturned by Gary Miller, UNCW’s chancellor at the time.
In Thursday’s meeting, student-athletes raised the possibility of raising funds to keep the programs going, but Sederburg told the StarNews that a one-time push for donations would not necessarily create financial stability for the programs in the long term.
Members of the UNCW cross country and track and field teams have started a petition at change.org, calling for help in saving the UNCW track and field teams, which attracted more than 4,000 signatures in its first day.
If the university goes through with its decision to drop the program, it will honor current student-athletes’ scholarship agreements, but as of the 2015-16 academic year, the programs would be dropped.
Coach Layne Schwier told the StarNews, “As coaches, we’ll do our best to coach our teams through this year and help our athletes make the transition.”
Both of UNCW’s cross country teams finished near the back of the field at this year’s Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championships and NCAA Southeast Regionals. The men’s track and field team won the 2014 CAA Track & Field Championship last spring.
Cross country and track and field teams throughout the country have been vulnerable to cuts in recent years, with men’s programs being cut at a higher rate than women’s programs, and Title IX being blamed. Seton Hall, the University of Richmond, Temple, the University of Maryland, West Virginia University, the University of Delaware, and Missouri State have all cut cross country and/or track & field programs in recent years.