A fundraising effort has bought at least one more year for the men's outdoor track team at the University of Maryland, College Park. But Monday marked the end of the road for seven other intercollegiate athletic teams at the state's flagship university.
Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson formally announced that the university has cut the men's and women's swimming & diving teams, men's cross country team, men's indoor track team, acrobatics & tumbling team, men's tennis team and the women's water polo team. Those seven teams and the men's outdoor track team have been raising funds since last year in an effort to stave off elimination by the cash-strapped athletic department.
“Today is bittersweet,” Anderson said on a conference call with reporters. “I didn't come to Maryland to cut sports.”
The seven eliminated teams include about 100 athletes. The university will honor the scholarships of the athletes on those teams and the coaches' contracts. The exact dollar amount that will be saved by the cuts was not available, but Anderson said the figures will be incremental. The full savings will come within the next four years, as athletes graduate or move on to other schools. About 75 athletes effected by the cuts are planning to return to Maryland this fall.
“In our strategic plan, we looked at the budget, and if everything works we'll be balanced in 2015,” Anderson said. “If we can keep to the plan and generate the revenue we're projecting and keep costs where we are now, we'll be a better and stronger program.”
The men's track team has raised $888,084 — by far the most of the programs that were identified for possible elimination. Though that number fell short of the $940,000 benchmark the track program needed to meet by June 30, Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations Doug Dull said the decision was made to allow the team to continue. Track coach Andrew Valmon, an Olympic gold medalist who will coach the U.S. men's track team at the London Olympics this month, gives the program a distinctly high profile.
“It's incredibly unique, with Valmon able to go to the Olympics and talk about Maryland track and field,” Dull said. “To have him in that setting to try to help with fundraising … that's never going to happen again.”
The men's program will compete in the spring of 2013 with a 14-man roster and 10 scholarships (2.6 less than the NCAA maximum for track scholarships). Its survival beyond 2013 is contingent upon raising another $1 million by Dec. 31.
The other seven teams failed by significant margins to meet the fundraising benchmarks established by the athletic department.
The swimming & diving program raised $184,716 of the $2.8 million it needed for its first benchmark. A total of $11.57 million — the equivalent of eight years worth of funding — would have been needed by Dec. 31, 2013 in order to save that program. None of the other teams that were cut raised more than $34,386.
“None of the other sports came close,” Anderson said, adding that it was clear by the middle of May that the men's track team was the only one that was going to meet its benchmark.
The athletic department's original fundraising plan for the men's track program required $4.18 million by June 30 to save the cross country and indoor/outdoor track teams. In March, the plan was altered to focus on generating enough funds for a streamlined program that will forego cross country in the fall and the winter indoor season and will compete only during the spring outdoor season.
Rising senior Jon Hill, who took 10th place in the high jump at last month's NCAA Championships, said the men's track team got official word of its survival on Monday morning.
There were 27 athletes listed on the Maryland's 2012 men's track roster (eight from The Gazette's coverage area of Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties), and there remains uncertainty about which 14 will be on the team next spring.
“It is a little weird,” said Hill, a graduate of Walkersville High School in Frederick County. “We have a pretty good idea who is going to make the roster, but there are guys who have done some good things, but sometimes not done so well. That's probably the majority of the team.”
Valmon, who was in Oregon this week for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, will make roster decisions in coming weeks.
“We're going to have to recruit a little differently,” Valmon told The Gazette in April. “We're going to have to do more events with fewer bodies.”
For Hill, that means stretching into some events he hasn't done in a while. He said he may try the long jump and expects to try the javelin, which he did during his sophomore year at Maryland. Hill's last experience in the long jump came in his senior year at Walkersville, when he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee while competing in the event.
“I threw the javelin 195 feet,” Hill said. “That's decent, but to compete I'll need to be over 200. I long jumped 23-10 in high school, but if it's too hard on my knee I won't do it.
“I'm not nervous in the sense that I'm worried I'll compete poorly, but I'm nervous about my health. I've torn the meniscus in both knees and had surgery in both, and that worries me — trying to conserve my body for life after track.”
Members of the men's track team will be able to compete unattached — on their own, not officially representing Maryland — during the indoor track season. They also will have to train on their own. Hill said that's a challenge he expects the Terps will meet decisively.
“It's hard enough trying to run fast and jump high and throw far when the coaches are there. When they're not, it's definitely going to be difficult,” he said. “We'll have to overcome some obstacles with this situation. But I don't have any doubt the people who make the roster will take advantage of this year. We never thought we were going to get a chance, so everybody is going to want to do well.”