BREAKING: Brown ReInstates Track Program After Social Media Campaign

Brown tried to slip in an announcement just under two weeks ago, announcing that they were cutting the men’s track and field program as part of their ‘excellence initiative’. However, Brown’s track athletes didn’t go down quietly, launching a huge social media campaign, coming on our podcast. After two weeks of Brown’s image being tarnished by their athletes, alumni donations being rescinded, Brown reversed their decision and re-instated the men’s track and field program.

Thank you to Brown recruits Jack Kelley, Cecilia Marrinan, and Emma Gallant, along with current athletes Alex Wilson, Tim McDonough, Eric Ingram, and Kevin Fairchild for talking with us and using our platform as part of their campaign! Congratulations to Brown Track!

Fighting Back: Brown University Athletes Left Blindsided by “Excellence Initiative” Program Cuts

Rising senior sprinter Tim McDonough started Thursday, May 28, as a Division 1 athlete with Brown University. However, that day, around noon, McDonough, and a group of athletes from eleven different Brown teams, were invited to an ‘important webinar’. 

“When I signed in to the call, [athletic director] Jack Hayes gave a small preamble and then told us that all teams on the call were officially reduced to club status. Altogether the call lasted less than 10 minutes”. 

Beyond the horrendously short notice and sharp delivery of the news, the worst part was that Brown’s stated reason for their cuts was their ‘excellence initiative’, a way for the Bears to stay more competitive in the Ivy League. Essentially: “Your team isn’t good enough. So we’re cutting you”. With a 2 billion dollar endowment, it’s hard to sympathize with the administration on the financial side of things, and at the very least, they must be held accountable for the abrupt announcement and horrible situation they have left their athletes in. The eleven teams cut were men’s and women’s fencing, men’s and women’s golf, women’s skiing, men’s and women’s squash, women’s equestrian and men’s indoor and outdoor track and cross country. The track and field team in particular has to wonder exactly what they have to do to be considered one of Brown’s competitive teams, and they’ve launched a social media campaign to plead their case. Just this past season, Brown boasted athletes that finished in the Ivy League top-5 in seven different events, including two in the weight throw. They have top-20 athletes in nearly every event. A year ago, Brown finished fifth as a team at the indoor track Ivy League championships, and they notched a third-place finish the year before that. Exactly what level of success was the Brown administration looking for?

Meanwhile, athletes, alumni, nor coaches were involved in this decision, or even warned of the impending demotion of their team. For those who couldn’t make the Zoom call on such short notice, they found out from teammates or even other friends: “I didn’t find out about the team being cut until my friend on the gymnast team sent me a message telling me how sorry she was”, rising sophomore javelin thrower Kevin Fairchild said, “I asked about what, and then she dropped the news to me”. Rising junior sprinter Alex Wilson echoed those sentiments: ““This news was very disheartening for us as athletes because it was delivered in an untimely manner with no forewarning and with little to no transparency from the administration”. 

Meanwhile, Brown’s follow-up to the stunning announcement has been paltry and unsatisfactory to their athletes, who feel they have virtually no options besides transferring. McDonough referred to another call hosted by the athletic department to answer questions, but they would only accept questions that they wanted to hear: “Some track athletes did attend the call and expressed anger that the athletic department seemed to want us to transfer. People left the call saying that they felt even more disrespected than they had the day before when the cuts were announced” McDonough said, “During that call, all athletes were put on mute and were required to type questions to the athletic department liaison. The liaisons refused to acknowledge any questions about why the decision was made, only discussing the transfer process”. 

So for all returning Brown athletes, the message was essentially transfer, or end your track career. 

The idea of transferring, especially for rising seniors like McDonough, is an emotional one. McDonough gave up a full Air Force ROTC scholarship in order to continue competing on the track team after his freshman season. “It is not an understatement to say that Brown Track has defined my college experience. I can say that my teammates and coaches have shaped me as a person, and I am better for it.” 

Then there’s the freshmen this past season, who barely got a chance to compete for their university, before finding out the end of their program had been in the makings since before their commitment to the university. Fairchild said of this: “The track team has been my family since the first day I walked onto campus. The reason I even considered going to Brown was because of the program. I chose this team because I felt it was my best shot at progressing to the next level. I’m only an outdoor season athlete, so I never got a chance to show what I can produce. Never got to represent the institution I used to love”.

Track is a major reason many of these athletes choose to attend Brown. In interviews with several incoming recruits and current Brown athletes, the theme was the same – they chose Brown Track because of the family culture that is present within the team, and the chance to combine a premier education while competing at the Division I level. Ivy League schools have notoriously low transfer rates, even for athletes, and so the possibility of these athletes getting a similar experience elsewhere is slim at best. Their so-called “Excellence-Initiative” has prematurely ended careers, forced athletes and students to transfer, and, beyond that, endangered the careers of incoming recruits. 

“I committed to Brown because I felt that I had access to both a world-class education and exceptional athletics”, Kelley said, ““I am extremely disappointed in the timing and the abrupt nature of this decision by Brown University. There is no phase out period to allow me to compete as I had been promised and to give me the opportunity to sort out plans to transfer to an institution that would allow me to compete”. 

The women’s team is also greatly affected by this decision: A post from Brown’s official Sprints and Hurdles Instagram read: “Men and Women in this sport work as a team. This team trains together, eats together, and travels together. Mean and women in this sport are truly equal; they are co-captains, training partners, and family”. 

So while the women’s team may continue to compete at the D1 level, they’re losing a major part of their family-like culture and community. Incoming women’s sprinter Cecilia Marrinan spoke about that: “Choosing Brown was easy. The track team possessed a strong camaraderie and positive culture…it was clear from the start that this team operated as one unit. I was eager to be a part of that family” Marrinan said, “I feel betrayed that my dreams of being a part of one big family have been ripped away from me before I even got to Brown. This decision affects the women’s team immeasurably. I would not have chosen Brown if I knew that the administration would treat their athletes with such disregard. You cannot rip family apart and still expect excellence”. 

Kelley has contacted several other Ivy League teams, only to be told that, while sympathetic for his situation, they could not give him a spot on such short notice. Thus Kelley’s options are either to take a gap year to retain eligibility, or to compete at the club level for a year and transfer. Either way, transitioning back to a D1 level will be exceptionally difficult, and Kelley and his fellow Brown commits are faced with the difficult decision that could have easily been prevented by Hayes or anyone else in charge of this decision.

According to them, the decision has been in the works for two years; two years, and they couldn’t so much as warn the coaches or athletes? Two years isn’t a financial emergency –  if it was, alumni would have been contacted, and that generous endowment could have been utilized. Rather, it was a slow and deliberate decision to not only cut eleven programs, but to leave their athletes with barely any course of action. “They robbed me of my college experience, and they’ve put a serious roadblock in my career”, Fairchild said. 

Whether it was a lengthy admissions and recruiting process that led recruits to eventually choosing Brown, or current athletes with years of developing a tight bond with their track family, this decision has sent core parts of their life into upheaval.

Jack Hayes knew about it for two years. But all he gave his athletes was ten minutes this past Thursday to let them know that their entire careers have been disrupted and possibly ended. 

It’s unacceptable, and sets a horrific precedent for athletic administrations cutting teams for ‘excellence initiatives’ with zero regard for the effect it has on the athletes within those programs. Hold them accountable.
To help Brown’s athletes with their campaign, share this on social media and use the hashtags #oneBruno and #SaveBrownTrack to promote their effort to reverse the university’s decision.  

Thank you to all the Brown athletes and recruits who told their story for this article. You can help them at both of the following links.
A Petition:

https://www.change.org/p/brown-university-department-of-athletics-retain-brown-men-s-track-field-s-varsity-status?recruiter=1052891208&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebookutm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=share_petition&recruited_by_id=14513a50-67e9-11ea-8d62-5f2e6f932677&utm_content=fht-22462364-en-us%3Av12

A GoFundMe

https://www.gofundme.com/f/retain-brown-university-men039s-track-amp-field-amp-xc?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1)

Daily Headlines: NCAA Implements Massive Postseason Ban on 15 Athletic Programs

As referenced by Cal Christoforo in his article on Stephen F. Austin, the NCAA struck with a thundering fist on Tuesday, implementing a postseason ban on fifteen schools that didn’t meet the minimum threshold on their Academic Progress Reports. The report required a four-year score of 930 – which predicts a graduation rate of 50%. Ten schools and fifteen athletic programs did not hit the mark:

  • Alabama A&M men’s basketball, men’s track and women’s soccer
  • Alabama State men’s basketball
  • Coppin State women’s track
  • Delaware State men’s basketball
  • Grambling State men’s track
  • Howard football
  • McNeese State football
  • Prairie View A&M football
  • Southern University men’s cross country and men’s track
  • Stephen F. Austin baseball, football and men’s basketball

The penalty is a postseason ban for the involved programs, but it’s unclear when they have to be served, especially with the ongoing uncertainty regarding the 2021-2022 sports season due the coronavirus pandemic.

USC and Ole Miss schedule first-ever match-up

Power-5 non-conference match-ups are always welcome, and courtesy of USC and Ole Miss, we will get one that we haven’t seen before. The Trojans and Rebels have never met on the gridiron, but they will in 2025 and 2026, as the two programs scheduled a home-and-home. USC will host Ole Miss in the Coliseum in 2025, and in 2026, the Trojans head to the state of Mississippi for the first time in their storied history. Ole Miss will be the 11th of 14 SEC teams that USC has played.

Daily Headlines: Scheduling implications of Cal schools moving online

The hopes for a semi-normal college football season took a huge blow, as the Cal public school system announced they would be moving online for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. The announcement was met with general disagreement and shock, as, while no one wants to downplay the severity of the pandemic, it seems ridiculously early to make this decision. The majority of schools don’t even begin classes for another three months, as some universities are still finishing up finals of this past school year.

To make a massive decision like this, knowing how unpopular it is with their students, the sports world, and pretty much everyone else, is pretty shocking. This virus is completely new to everyone, with most projections and models having been fairly inaccurate to this point. The pandemic has been going on for just about two months in America now, so to make this call three months ahead of time seems absurd. 

On another note, that decision will greatly affect college football, and all of the fall college sports season. Without Cal, UCLA, and all the other public Cal schools competing at the D1 level, on campus, it seems unlikely their sports teams will be able to compete. The Pac-12 is greatly affected by this, which in turn leaves a lot of question marks about the fate of football this fall. 

Conference opponents discussing potential home-and-home series in 2020
One potential solution to the dilemma already posed by the Cal announcement, and potentially to be posed by other schools, is to allow teams to play each other twice in a season. This would allow the Pac-12 to continue to function with some level of normality, even if Cal and UCLA are unable to play. Rather than shut down the league, if the other teams are able to compete, they’ll just play other conference opponents more than once. This could be a common move in a lot of major conferences, if certain teams are unable to compete. I can think of worse things than having to watch LSU vs. Alabama twice. This will, evidently, affect the College Football Playoff race, as a possible one-time expansion may be possible, or a two-loss Playoff team due to the increased conference contests.

Top 5 Non-NCAA college sports

Yesterday, we discussed and questioned why soccer gets so little coverage as a major college sport – with the interest, the exciting games and natural rivalries, the lack of national attention makes little sense. Today, we’re taking a different route, as we will look at the top 5 little-known, or niche, college sports that are surprisingly fun to watch. While I’m not necessarily going to make the argument for nationally televised games, as I did with soccer, I do think it would be intriguing to see these sports garner a little more coverage. Without further ado:

5. Sprint Football
This one is fifth on the list because it is the least ‘niche’ sport on the list. This game is played the same as regular football, but players are required to maintain a body weight of 178 pounds or lighter, with a minimum 5% body fat. This puts the emphasis on speed and agility rather than pure strength and force. Military academy teams like Army and Navy, who met in the 2019 title game, have a bit of an advantage with their raw athleticism allowing them to thrive in a weight-controlled environment. With plenty of flea flickers and double reverses to go around, the explosiveness of sprint football makes for some entertaining games that allow teams with the skill but not the size to compete in NCAA football to thrive. 

4. Squash

This one is the biggest stretch, because squash is probably the least televisable of the games on this list, but it’s a naturally competitive game, and the points are quick enough for the modern attention span of its audience. Although the ‘highlight’ videos are pretty sparse, the enclosed space with just the two athletes sprinting around the small court can make for some athletic and exciting points. Maybe we don’t need ESPN covering these games (although I would gladly watch some live Squash games right now), but this is a fun little niche sport. 

3. Paintball
I mean, Paintball is always entertaining at any level. The courses that the collegiate sport is played on make the games (matches?) entertaining. The athletes are suited up, diving around, ducking behind inflatable obstacles, all while shooting guns? As a fan of quick-paced and aggressive sports, I’d be more than happy to see this on TV once in a while. 

2. Spikeball/Roundnet
This game being televised and covered more broadly makes a lot of sense – the game of Spikeball, or roundnet, has an intense following – the official Spikeball has 462,000 followers. It’s played casually on the beach, or internationally at premier tournaments. The highlight reels include ridiculous diving saves, body blocks, between the leg spikes, and everything else you’d want to see. There plenty of regional rivalries in this one – maybe Notre Dame and Ohio State don’t meet often in college football, but the Buckeyes and Irish in the fall and spring regional tournaments, routinely finishing 1-2 in the midwest tournaments.

1. Ultimate Frisbee
This one surprises me how little attention it gets. I think a lot of people underestimate how much of a sport Ultimate is. It’s not governed by the NCAA, but the game is popular nationwide. While teams in the Carolinas often dominate, BYU, Oregon, and other Northwestern teams boast impressive squads. The sport has its own “Heisman” known as the Callahan Award, and highlight videos, as shown above, feature astounding full-field hucks, layout blocks and catches, and skies. Between regional and national tournaments, Ultimate Frisbee has intense competition with a cult-like following.

Thoughts Behind the Covid-19 Redshirt Year

Amidst all the school closings, store closings, and now quarantined lifestyles, many collegiate athletes find themselves at a loss. After a tragic and sudden end to the season of spring athletes due to the current Coronavirus, the NCAA has offered the opportunity for students to use this prematurely concluded season as a redshirt year. Some appear to be elated while others discouraged.

From an optimistic standpoint, many athletes have the ability to make up for their lost season and complete the typical 4 season run of most collegiate athletes. As well, for many student-athletes who might not see playing time in their future, there is the opportunity to better their skills without missing out on a season or spending a year riding the bench for most games.

Though, there is as well the negative standpoint. The first of which being no athlete truly wanted to lose a season like this. The current team they are a part of will no longer be the same as seniors graduate, programs adapt, and positions change. No chance at a national title, a conference title, or any accolades for the season.

One must also look at the financial toll of a 5th year taken after the occurrence of Covid-19. Many athletes are already being supported by a scholarship, but very few find themselves holding a full ride. Due to this, student athletes who may not be able to afford a 5th year as is must decide between debt, or losing a year of the sport they love they most (which many will cease to continue once their collegiate career ends).

There is then the aspect of the seniors. Many were looking at All-American status, captain-ship, a starting position, and a chance to lead their team into one last season of victory and success. This has now been stripped away abruptly, and these seniors now have to decide whether to accept this defeat, or postpone their futures for the sport they love. These seniors have already found themselves accepted into grad school, beginning jobs in different cities, and pursuing what the future holds for them. Now they must decide whether to put their future on hold or give up years of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice.

Brown senior Garett Delano is one of the many seniors forced to make a tough decision about their athletic careers. Image courtesy of the St. Cloud Rox

The sacrifices collegiate athletes make for their sport are nothing less than significant. Even from the moment they touched a ball, a stick, a racket, or put on a uniform. You give up aspects of your social life, moments with your family, and the ability to live what is deemed a normal life. Instead of frat parties, there are 7am lifts. Instead of internships, there are summer workout packets. Instead of tailgates, there are film sessions. Through all this sacrifice, spring student-athletes are now in a position where their efforts seem to be for nothing.

Ultimately, nobody planned for the global pandemic we are currently battling, but we are now in a state of facing it. Collegiate athletes must now decide how to handle this and how to move forward. While it is not a pleasant option, it is an option they have to face. As an athlete in the college realm, the choice that is faced here is nothing simple, and it will be interesting to see how many athletes ultimately decide to use this redshirt year versus having to sacrifice a year of hard work.