Statement to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Good afternoon Mr. Sims, Chancellor Leavitt, campus members and community members,
My name is Daniel Kobin and I am currently a senior here at UW Oshkosh and I have just finished playing my fourth season of soccer. I am deeply saddened to hear the decision to cut the men’s soccer program. I have given all I have to this program since coming here back in the fall of 2011.
Upon hearing the athletics department’s decision to cut the men’s soccer program, like many, I went through different phases of denial, anger, confusion and disappointment. One could argue that it shouldn’t matter as much to me considering I’ve used up my four years of eligibility, however, I think it is quite the opposite in my case. After letting it all sink in, I still have numerous thoughts regarding this decision.
A lot of us were blindsided by this recent decision. We were not directly told until Monday that the men’s soccer program will be cut. There was no time period for us to give our input on the decision. By not having any time, we have not been given any time to collaborate with the athletics department and administration in coming up with alternative solutions. In fact, in yesterday’s student-athlete forum with both Chancellor Leavitt and Mr. Sims, when asked if any alternative solutions were researched during the decision making process, we were told that nothing else had been considered.
Considering that this is still a proposed budget, it is disappointing that this decision has already been made without any input from those affected. Obviously this is not an easy decision to make, but I wish that the decision making committee had involved the program to some degree before making a final decision.
In the official press release by the Athletics department and administration on Monday, April 6th, it stated that there were two criteria considered when making this decision, the first being if a team had a conference championship and second if it was an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. The press release states that these were among other criteria, but after meeting with both Mr. Sims and Chancellor Leavitt yesterday, it is apparent that if teams fell into both of these categories, then they were never even considering when looking at the budget cuts, not even parts of these programs. One thing to note as well, is that the decision to use both of these criteria were made by only Mr. Sims and Chancellor Leavitt themselves.
AQ doesn’t necessarily mean that the team will reach the NCAA tournament, they must still win conference in order to receive a bid. Men’s soccer has never had an automatic qualifier in all 31 years of its existence. Regardless of not having this AQ, the program has reached the NCAA tournament a respectable 13 out of 31 seasons including 4 final four appearances with a total record of 412 wins, 118 losses and 52 draws while having only one losing season. It should be noted that this was in 1984, its first ever season. I am surprised that this AQ requirement was so heavily weighed in this decision rather than previous and continued success.
Mr. Sims was quoted by Oshkosh Northwestern saying, “We really want all of the remaining programs and all our student athletes to have an opportunity to play for something really significant at the end of the season [that is] a championship from the WIAC conference and then an opportunity to go to the postseason to win a national championship.”
It’s hard to not be personally offended by this. Although we no longer have a conference, there is still plenty to play for. This program has shown that it can succeed as an independent. We have proven over time that we are one of the most successful sports programs at this university and the most successful college soccer program in the state of Wisconsin.
Soccer is a global sport, and by cutting this program the university is reducing its opportunities to embrace diversity. The growth of soccer in this nation has been remarkable. In the last decade, soccer has exploded onto the scene. It is one of the fastest growing youth sports, and the Major Soccer League continues to expand. In fact, the average MLS attendance rate is third in the U.S. behind only Major League Baseball and the National Football League. All signs are leading towards continued growth of this sport.
In Monday’s press release, Chancellor Leavitt stated that this decision is “being done in the best long-term interests of our student-athletes.” If the growth of soccer continues, then it is on pace to become one of the nation’s most popular sports. Soccer will most likely be the long-term interest of many future student-athletes to come. In yesterday’s meeting with Chancellor Leavitt and Mr. Sims, they mentioned that schools of the WIAC conference are looking to identify several core sports in which the foundation of the conference can be based on. It’s only a matter of time until soccer establishes itself as a core American sport.
By not having a soccer program, what does this say about our university? By not having a program for arguably the fastest growing sport in America, what effect will this have on prospective students? The press release from Monday states that there are 35 student-athletes and 2 coaches affected by this decision. Cutting the men’s soccer program will not only affect current students, but also prospective students. I am not sure why the University is willing to lose the tuition money from current or prospective students looking to play soccer here, as they will now most likely move on, however, from what we heard yesterday, the administration has decided to risk the loss in tuition from this group. The university may also alienate the soccer alumni base, consisting of several hundred alumni. The university will be at risk of losing any future financial support from these alumni.
I came out of high school knowing that I wanted to play soccer in college at UW Oshkosh. In fact, I made this decision a year before I graduated high school. My teammates, coaches and other campus members know how much my education means to me, but to be honest, if it weren’t for soccer, I’d probably not be here.
But what I find amazing, is that already, amid all of the current news regarding this decision, three incoming freshmen have reiterated their commitment and decision to attend UW Oshkosh in the fall and play on the men’s soccer team. This is a testament to the strong success and tradition this program has and what it means to be a Titan.
After yesterday’s student-athlete meeting with both Athletic Director Darryl Sims and Chancellor Leavitt, it is clear to me that I have remaining concerns regarding this decision. It concerns me that the administration and athletic department took the easy way out. It concerns me that this was a short-sighted decision due to budget restrictions, rather than in part of a long-term financial plan of the University. It concerns me that we were not directly informed about this decision before Monday. It concerns me that we were never given any say in this decision. It concerns me that we were never given the opportunity to explore alternative solutions and work together with the athletics department and administration. It concerns me that the only people to decide on the two criteria in this decision making process were Mr. Sims and Chancellor Leavitt, one being of football background and the other still new to the campus and perhaps unaware of the tradition of this program. It concerns me that this may be the beginning of a slippery slope of future athletic department program cuts. It concerns me that budget cuts most likely have nothing to do with this decision.
I cannot tell you how many alumni have contacted me about this decision. I’ve also received support from friends, family, opponents, former coaches, coworkers and even professors. I hope that the administration knows how much this program has meant, means, and will mean to not only alumni, students and future students, but also the community.
So I leave you with only one question today:
Have you done everything to make sure that this program and truly special experience for many has to come to an end on your watch?
We will not stop today. We will not rest until this program is back. The legacy of the UW Oshkosh men’s soccer program will live on for years to come; you can be sure of that.
It is not too late. You can still reverse this decision. You are the Chancellor. You are our campus leader. Thank you.