Men's Soccer disbanding causes outcry

Since Vanderbilt University announced that the men's soccer team would be disbanded, and that funding for the program would cease at the end of this school year, the outcry from students and others has been vehement. Vanderbilt's administration expected that the reaction would be subdued or non-existent, and they may have been justified, but whether justified or not, that belief was mistaken.

Vanderbilt athletics announced this decision to the general public in a press release. However, the press release was not entitled "Men's Soccer Program Comes to an End" – in fact, the title didn't mention men, soccer, men's soccer, or any sort of end to anything. The press release focussed on the new women's swimming program for six full paragraphs before mentioning men's soccer. But there, in the seventh paragraph of a relatively obscure press release, it was announced that men's soccer would be gone forever.

Ironically, this program cost Vanderbilt very little, calling into question the excuse that budgetary concerns were an issue. Men's Soccer operated on only 2.1 scholarships each year, and had much lower costs of operation than one might think. Much of the equipment analogous to what is provided for football and basketball players by the university was unfunded – soccer players by and large equipped themselves. While the men's basketball team will be flying to Florida this weekend, the soccer team uses far less expensive means of transportation.

Adding to the irony, the soccer program was coming off of it's best season in history. Tim McClements was awarded "Coach of the Year" honors by the Missouri Valley Conference. Vanderbilt's soccer program played in the MVC because men's soccer is not an SEC sport. McClements' slogan for the team "Building a Tradition," seemed to be coming to fruition as the team had its best win-loss record ever in the 2005 campaign. The level of talent that Vanderbilt soccer was able to recruit increased after every season, as it became apparent that Vanderbilt was on the verge of an NCAA tournament appearance in the sport.

Sharon Shields, current Vanderbilt professor and past president of the National Association of Girls and Women in Sport, wrote an opinion article for the student newspaper's latest edition. She argued that arguments supporting the end of men's soccer at Vanderbilt should not cite Title IX as a concern. A proper understanding of Title IX, she said, would not support the administration's decision to deprive Vanderbilt of any men's sport.

The student response has been enormous. This week, a group of men's soccer players has been actively circulating petitions, hoping that the student body would support their efforts to ask Chancellor Gee and company to resurrect the program immediately. Students were more than ready to do so, and recent estimates indicate that over 1500 undergraduates have put their name and signature behind the effort. Other unidentified students protested the move by creating a mock gravesite – complete with tombstone and flowers – on Vanderbilt's Alumni Lawn. The tombstone reads: "R.I.P. Vanderbilt Men's Soccer. 1973-2006. Drowned tragically at women's swim meet."

The next few days could be critical in the process, as the would-be soccer players will have their first – that's right, first – chance to speak with the administration officials who made the decision to end the program. With thousands of Vanderbilt students supporting the cause, the soccer team will come to that meeting armed with confidence. That confidence and support, hopefully, will persuade the administration that men's soccer should continue to be played at Vanderbilt – putting the newly constructed, expensive, and beautiful soccer/lacrosse facility on campus to good use.


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