Solemn. Glum. Lost. These adjectives depict the most accurate painting of the mood of the members of the UMBC tennis program at a support rally on Wednesday. The rally was a valiant attempt to show that the Retriever faithful would not surrender the life of the beloved tennis program quietly.
On Monday, Nov. 2 at approximately 12 p.m., the UMBC student body received an email from Athletic Director Tim Hall with some rather abrupt and unexpected news. The UMBC tennis program would no longer be in existence by next semester. The news spread like wildfire across campus. What was thought to be an obscure sport was the talk of the campus all of a sudden. The tone of the talk was clear: this is not right.
If you were shocked, one wouldn’t be surprised. That news seemed to come out of left field to the student body who had barely, if at all, been briefed on the dire situation the program was in. But one couldn’t have been as shocked as the 18 players on the team, who had just heard the news not even an hour before.
“They told us 45 minutes before they sent out that email,” said one member of the team. “We were going into practice and they all called us into the office, and then they thanked us and told us we won’t have a team anymore, all in about five minutes.”
Though the team did not receive a thorough explanation at the time, the email would thoroughly explain the cause of the termination of the program.
According to Hall, the termination of the program would help UMBC athletics stay in line with the Title IX gender equity guidelines, which ensure that equal opportunities are given to both genders to compete at a college. In most simple terms, there are just as many men’s teams as there are women’s teams.
Considering that the AEC had already decided to discontinue men’s tennis as a sport in the conference, the writing may have been on the wall for the men’s team. But hope was not lost and while the AEC still sponsored women’s tennis as a sport, the men’s team found temporary shelter in the Missouri Valley Conference.
According to Hall, the costs to compete in the mid-west centric MVC were just too much to support any further participation in the conference after the two year contract. Rather than find a more cost friendly group of competition, the heads of the university and tennis program came to the conclusion to terminate the program.
With the mutters of the AEC looking at if they wanted to continue sponsoring women’s tennis, it seemed as if they best thing to do would be to just end it all now.
Budget cuts, legal issues and conference affiliation: none of these reasons are new and or groundbreaking to the cause of terminating division one athletic teams. In 2013, Temple University had to cut seven of its programs, including five men’s teams, in order to fall under the Title IX requirement of gender equality. This affected more than 200 of its student-athletes.
In comparison to most, we have experienced very little shake-up in our sports programs. What has rubbed athletes and supporters the wrong way is the lack of notice given by the university.
“We didn’t get a chance to do anything about it,” said one UMBC student at the rally. “We could have been taking initiative to show our support and try to come up with solutions but no one said anything to anybody.”
It is odd that students weren’t given the chance to show how much this program meant to them. Now it is felt and evident across campus, but instead of in a fervor of support and optimism, there is just a cloud of despondent shock that has moved in over the student body.