Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The love of their lives: Athletes want voices heard, push forward

From the Post:

The love of their lives: Athletes want voices heard, push forward

After the dust settled on the athletic department’s decision, there are still people left standing and fighting for what they’ve lost, despite the fact that they have been told the decision is final.

This decision to cut four sports has affected more than one hundred athletes and every one of them has a story that they want the administration to hear. Stories they never got to tell because no one ever asked.

Juniors from all three teams said they aren’t sure if they want to continue putting money into an institution that they don’t feel respects them. They have made memories here, but those memories may not overshadow the anger they feel.

“Do I want my diploma to say ‘Ohio’? Do I want my diploma to remind me every day of the organization, the institution that took away the biggest love of my life?” swimmer Cy Moser said.

Junior John Willis from the track and field team said that when he walked on his freshman year, he was receiving an opportunity that other schools may not have presented.

“From high school to my freshman year of college I worked so hard for this team,” said Willis. “It’s hard to take, I mean (the seniors) all get to leave at the end of the year having had their four years, and I get my senior year a year early.”

Senior Craig Leon redshirted last season and has a year of eligibility left after this one, however, because of the timing of the announcement he has missed graduation deadlines for other schools and therefore is “stuck.”

It has now become too late to enroll in most schools and also too late for some athletes to redshirt and save a year of eligibility.

We’d do it for nothing

One of the reasons that Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt gave last Thursday was that the department is no longer able to provide the experience that they’d like to.

“It’s obvious that because of our financial position, we were not providing our student-athletes with the high-quality experience that is expected at Ohio University,” Hocutt said.

Athletes from these sports all agree they would compete for nothing.

“That’s like putting the cotton swab on my arm before you inject me with the lethal injection,” senior Austin Schiele, track and field team member, said. “What is that going to do? Nothing. That’s not helping us. That’s not making us feel better”

Moser said the team managed to succeed even through the phasing out of its scholarships.

“If the administration told us we had to pack bag lunches on our trips for food we’d do that to keep the program,” said Moser.

Senior thrower Eric Bildstein, said that the team is constantly finding ways to save money, including ordering pizza on trips instead of going out to restaurants.

Lacrosse team members Shannon Hadaway and Jen Heup said that they agree.

“I know that if they had said ‘Hey we’re not going to be able to buy you new sticks or we’re not going to be able to buy you uniforms, we would have been OK with that,” said Heup.

Family separation

At the beginning of the academic year Hocutt gave a speech to the athletes regarding the three T’s of his goals: tradition, titles and teamwork. Many athletes from the cut teams are now feeling differently about the speech.

Junior swimmer Drew Stetson said that the “teamwork” aspect is going to affect the women’s side of swimming.

“It’s like a family, and to break that it’s just going to affect the women’s teams as well,” said Stetson. “I know a lot of girls on our team came here for the combined program aspect and training with guys, it just brings a totally different aspect.”

The thing that hurts most of the athletes is the breaking up of their teams. Hadaway and Heup said they had already discussed having each other in their weddings and that the freshmen on their team had already made living arrangements, but without the bond of the sport future students will not be able to make such close friends. Track and field and swimming and diving athletes said the same was true for their teams.

None of the athletes are prepared to accept that this decision is final. Senior sprinter Dan Bailey said that he and his teammates are in a planning phase.

“(We are) getting ideas going and finding which ones are actually feasible and start doing something with them,” said Bailey.

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