Indoor Track demoted to club team
Published: Monday, February 16, 2009
Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 04:07
The men's and women's Colonial Invitational will take place this weekend at the Delaware Field House. With Northeastern making the journey to Delaware from New England, and Virginia Commonwealth University coming up from Virginia, the meet will likely be among the most important of the winter season. Although both teams see the importance in the meet, the men have a much more ominous perspective, knowing it will be among their last indoor events.
"It's the first time that they're both in our house," men's track team captain Chase Renoll said. "They're here. It's sad that for the next few years we won't be a part of it."
On Dec. 17, the university decided to cut the men's indoor track program and add the women's golf program, in order to meet the Title IX requirements (a law designed to provide equal opportunities for men and women). The decision came after large-scale speculation that the entire men's track and field and cross country programs would be cut.
Although the outdoor cross country programs remain intact, the indoor program will be reduced to club status at the start of the 2009-2010 season.
"Cutting a program is one of the hardest things that has to be done as a director of athletics," Director of Athletics Edgar Johnson said.
The decision was a result of Delaware Athletics' strategic initiative, Johnson said. In order to be more compliant with Title IX, Delaware had to meet one of its three "prongs," which include providing athletic opportunities that are proportionate to the student enrollment, demonstrating a continued expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex and full and effective accommodation of the interest and ability of the underrepresented sex. The decision to cut indoor track and add women's golf was an effort to meet the first prong.
"That's really disappointing," track and field head coach Jim Fischer said. "The kids especially who are not distance runners are going to be limited. Even though they're going to be able to do some competing for the club team, they came here with the idea of being a varsity athlete."
Despite clear disappointment in the loss of one of the programs, many in the track community are content that most of Delaware's running program has survived. A Facebook group that was created in an effort to support the running program during the time of widespread rumors in the fall titled "Save Delaware Men's Cross Country and Track and Field" issued a statement saying "While this is not the outcome that we had hoped, it is still much better than the initial prediction, which was that they were going to cut all three teams."
Connor Whitesel, who competes outdoors in the hammer, was somewhat relieved when he got wind of the decision.
"We were all half expecting they would cut the whole entire program," he said. "But, just losing the indoor is a compromise."
Recruitment and the overall competitiveness of the entire program are issues that still remain a concern to many. While the indoor program has continued on with its last varsity season, rarely speaking of it, Fischer has struggled behind the scenes.
"Of course it's good that we have two of the three programs," he said. "But, the indoor program is a viable program in itself. It even has a national championship."
Renoll expressed concern that the loss of a program would hinder recruitment efforts but was optimistic that it was nothing the athletes couldn't overcome.
For now, the Hens are thankful to have one last season, and are making the most of it.
"We're trying to break those records," Renoll said. "I mean, it's our last chance."