Friday, February 16, 2007

Athens Messenger Article on Track Cuts/Student Senate/Squirrel's Failed Plan

Athletic director rejects student's proposal
Plan calls for gradual phasing out of sports teams

Though the decision to eliminate four Ohio University varsity sports - men's swimming and diving, men's indoor and outdoor track and women's lacrosse - was proclaimed "final" two weeks ago at the University Town Hall Meeting, efforts to salvage future seasons persist among students.

Craig Leon, senior member of the men's outdoor track team, presented a proposal to Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt earlier this week, calling for the gradual phasing out of the sports affected by the recent cuts, instead of their outright elimination.

"I'm not ready to believe we're not going to have a track team next spring," Leon said.

However, Leon said his plan was rejected by Hocutt. Ohio University Student Senate approved a resolution Wednesday night condemning Hocutt and asking that the proposal be reconsidered.

Leon's proposal calls for the elimination of the men's indoor track team and a phasing-out period for the men's outdoor track team, men's swimming and diving team and the women's lacrosse team.

By Leon's calculations, this combination would keep the university in compliance with Title IX by adhering to the tenet of Title IX that would require a university to "provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students," as defined on the NCAA Web site.

Maintaining compliance with Title IX was among the main justifications Hocutt provided for cutting the four teams.

According to Leon, the athletic director considered his proposal for "about 30 hours" before saying that it would not work.

Leon said that gradual reduction of team membership as the classes graduate would provide the current athletes with an opportunity to finish out their careers as Bobcats. He also pointed out that individual members of the men's swimming and diving teams, as well as the men's outdoor track team, have the potential to qualify for MAC and NCAA titles, which he said further justifies the phase-out option.

Leon attended Wednesday night's meeting of the OU Student Senate to speak out about the proposal and its rejection, as well as seek support from the senate.

Later on Wednesday night, Student Senate passed a resolution condemning the actions of Hocutt and the athletic department in regard to this proposal and calling for justification and reconsideration.

Primary sponsor At-large Senator Matt Bell said that once again the administration has ignored the student voice on this issue.

Vice President Paul Crites, also a sponsor, said that he sees this closed-door decision as "another deliberate and unabashed disregard" for student input. Crites said that the proposal is both fair and reasonable.

"The phase-out plan would not cost the university a single cent," Crites said. He said that student athletes have previously demonstrated their ability to raise money.

The men's outdoor track team, for example, raised $5,000 last season and received an additional $5,000 in donations from alumni. According to Leon, $10,000 is enough money to make the team self-sufficient.

"I don't understand why we are being cut," Leon said.

The Special Committee on Athletics, of which Bell is chairman, has formulated a petition to "show that students care about this issue," Bell said. He and other volunteers plan to begin circulating the petition this week.

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