Save UNC-Wilmington Track & Cross Country Effort Set

12/18/2014 - 20:54

unc.jpg A drive to save the track & field and cross country programs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington has begun.

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For financial reasons, university officials announced cancellation of the teams beginning with the 2015-16 season.

Parents, students, coaches and alumni seek to raise at least $600,000 in pledge to ensure the programs might be saved. The fund drive had raised $116,650 as of Dec. 18.

A letter to the UNCW Board of Trustees from parents called the decision to cancel the programs “ill advised” and “flawed” and lacked transparency. The parents asked in the letter that trustees advise the school’s interim Chancellor Bill Sederburg to reconsider “this flawed decision.”

The action to discontinue the programs was recommended by Athletic Director Jimmy Bass, who issued a statement to “Members of the Seahawk Community,” which said in part:

“At our Board of Trustees meeting two weeks ago, Chancellor Sederburg presented four areas for priority funding from increased tuition and fee dollars: academic excellence, personnel, technology and Athletics. He challenged Athletics to become financially solvent via increased student fee revenue, the “right-sizing” of the athletic program, and increased private donations. The university is committed to serving our entire population of student-athletes to the best of our ability: supporting their academic needs; their health, safety and well-being; and their future as competitive athletes.

“In response to the ongoing analysis of fiscal health and the challenge presented by the Chancellor, I have prepared the attached report. After careful consideration of the factors you’ll see in the report, including financial sustainability, Title IX compliance and gender equity, support levels and financial commitment, I have come to the difficult decision to recommend the discontinuation of four programs: outdoor men’s track and field, outdoor women’s track and field, indoor women’s track and field and men’s cross country, beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. This will also mean the elimination of four coaching positions. The Chancellor has received this report and has indicated his initial support. We have shared this news with the affected student-athletes and coaches and are offering them any counseling support they may need in the coming days.

“It’s always very, very difficult to make decisions that I know will have a serious impact on student-athletes and employees. However, I felt it was important to communicate this decision to these student-athletes and coaches as soon as possible -- before the holiday break, to try to avoid an atmosphere of hearsay that would only add to their anxiety; so they could use that time to discuss the matter with their families; and so our student-athletes could explore possible transfer opportunities. We will honor our scholarship commitments to these student-athletes through their scheduled graduation dates. Academic and other support services will also remain unchanged for these student-athletes.

“In addition, all newly-recruited student-athletes in the affected sports will be notified and granted releases from their National Letter-of-Intent.

“Without right-sizing our team offerings, there is no ability to achieve financial sustainability in Athletics while at the same time meeting our obligations under Title IX. Therefore, in order to be in compliance with Title IX regarding gender equity, UNCW will be adding a women’s sport in the coming year: sand volleyball. NCAA Division I members are required to sponsor a minimum of 14 sports: six men’s programs and eight women’s programs. UNCW will now sponsor 15 sports: six men’s programs (soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, swimming and diving); and nine women’s programs (soccer, cross country, volleyball, basketball, softball, tennis, golf, swimming and diving, and eventually sand volleyball).

“I hope you will join me in offering support to those affected by this difficult decision. The chancellor and I have designated Thursday, December 11th at 3pm in UNCW’s Golden Hawk Room on campus to be available to respond to students with specific questions. Supporting the immediate needs of our students and employees will be this university’s priority in the days to come.”

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