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UB Athletics’ announcement to cut four teams was insensitive, unprofessional

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We are grateful UB Athletics has decided to take a look at how it is spending our student fee money. But we are shocked at the callous way administrators chose to announce $2 million cuts and the disintegration of four UB teams.

They lined 120 student athletes up in a room at 8 a.m. Monday and collectively slaughtered their college dreams. Is this UB’s definition of providing an education?

The campus has buzzed with unrest all week. Vibrant student athletes have become zombies.

And it’s not just students. Roughly nine coaches and their families also had a life-changing decision dropped on them without warning. Exuberant coaches have gone ghost.

UB baseball coach Ron Torgalski has been at UB for 16 years. He won’t have a job after May. He said he’d been told UB is “not in the business of cutting programs,” yet on Monday, he learned UB will no longer have a baseball team.

Davie Carmichael became the men’s head soccer coach two months ago. He hired Michael Tanke to be his assistant coach less than a month ago. If UB administrators knew these cuts were looming, why did they let these men go through this charade?

It’s cruel and denies these coaches and the athletes who look up to them the dignity they deserve.

Alumni have flooded our office with complaints. Former student athletes are irate and are embarrassed to say they played for UB.

We have asked administrators and UB Athletics officials to explain their actions. They must have thought this through carefully before making these cuts. Men’s soccer has made back-to-back MAC Championship game appearances and had the highest team GPA of any sports team this past fall. Sophomore swimmer Mason Miller was named the MAC’s Most Outstanding Swimmer at Conference Championships. Last season, two formerUB baseball players were in the MLB at once.

We know women’s rowing was struggling with recruits and that if UB cuts a women’s sport, it has to cut the same number of men’s in order to remain compliant with Title IX rules. But, we want to understand what compelled officials to cut these teams so suddenly and with such cruelty.

Unfortunately, we have not received much beyond vague answers.

Our president, Satish Tripathi, who was at the Monday meeting, said there is “never a good time” to make such cuts.

He’s right.

But there are better, kinder ways of making them. Students could have been warned that the teams would be cut in 2019 or 2020. That would have given students time to transfer and coaches time to search for new jobs. Or it would have given alumni and parents time to donate and try to save the programs.

Did UB need that $2 million immediately?

Athletes say Tripathi and Athletic Director Allen Greene left shortly after Monday’s announcement about the cuts and did not take questions from stunned athletes.

Tripathi did not respond to The Spectrum’s questions about the cuts, beyond a standard press release. Greene allowed The Spectrum sports reporters four questions in an email Tuesday. He took two of his answers from the university’s press release, saying Athletics took into account program costs, athletics’ facilities, Title IX, geographic location and a comparison of sports sponsored by MAC schools when choosing the four teams.

When asked if more teams will be cut, he said UB is “committed to Division I athletics and remaining competitive in the MAC.”

He also did not help us understand why UB made these cuts now, this year, with such readiness. When we asked, he said, “The reduction followed a comprehensive review of the athletics department’s budget as part of the university’s annual resource planning process. This process occurs each year at this time and recently concluded.”

What are we to make of this?

Athletics cancelled a Spectrum reporter’s interview with Greene Tuesday afternoon because Greene was headed out of town. Can he not be reached? Doesn’t he have a cell phone?

We also don’t know what UB will do with the $2 million it is saving by cutting the four teams. Greene said the money is not going back into football or the athletic department and is “going back to the university.”

Where?

Again, we are trying to understand and help the students we represent understand. We appreciate that UB wants to save money and is concerned about the $24 million subsidy the athletics department gets. We also are glad UB is honoring the scholarships it has already awarded current and incoming student athletes. But why – if cuts were coming – did UB award these scholarships in the first place?

The Spectrum spoke to dozens of student athletes from a myriad of UB’s 20 teams. All felt disillusioned and blindsided by the administration.

As journalists, we rely on the trust of our readers. Similarly, athletic officials need the trust of their players and coaches.

In one morning, UB lost that trust and administration won’t get it back until we get answers.

Because without students, there is no UB.

The editorial board can be reached at eic@ubspectrum.com


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