EMU athletes react to cut sports

In the wake of Eastern Michigan University’s announced parting of four sports from its athletics program, university athletes expressed their anger and sadness over the decision. 

“I didn’t know this past weekend was going to be my last match, so that makes me really sad,” said Kayne MacCallum, a senior wrestler. “We were all blind sided.”

In a $2.4 million budgetary cut, Eastern Michigan University has eliminated four athletic programs including wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, softball and woman’s tennis. The cuts, which will become effective at the conclusion of the Spring 2018 season, were announced Tuesday, March 20. 

The 83 athletes involved received notification Monday night, March 19 of a mandatory meeting Tuesday morning, March 20 where Scott Weatherbee, EMU’s athletics director, broke the news. 

The university is realigning its budget as a response to student enrollment and state funding trends. According to student body president Miles Payne, the state provides EMU with about 24 percent of what the university needs to function. The rest is obtained through tuition. 

Payne also said the university had 546,323 student credit hours in 2011 but that number has dropped to 478,000 in 2018. This decline in enrollment has left EMU in debt and with a Reserve Account at about $45 million dollars, which is dangerously low for a university. 

“In the past five or six years this has been happening to a lot of schools with swimming – it’s a non-revenue sport,” said Kyle Aerne, a fifth year swimmer. 

The EMU swim team has won 34 Mac Championship titles while wrestling just had the first All-American wrestler since 1999. Aerne noted that the University of Buffalo cut their swim team in 2017, another very successful group of athletes.

Samantha Saporito, an EMU softball player, said, “My experience with Eastern Softball was everything that I could’ve asked for and more. If I could do my recruiting process all over again, knowing the outcome, I would pick Eastern Michigan every single time.” 

Saporito referred to the cut as a ‘stepping stone in where we are truly meant to be,’ and she also said she appreciated Weatherbee sharing his experience with his team being cut in college. 

Both wrestling and swimming have started GoFundMe pages in hopes of resurrecting their programs as well as taken to social media to protest. In Kalamazoo on Saturday, March 24, members of the wrestling team spoke in front a large crowd in protest of the university’s decision to cut their program. 

EMU is being criticized for the lack of discourse and transparency after suddenly announcing the elimination of the four teams. On Thursday, March 22, University Communications announced the creation of the budget information website to address the concerns. 

“Such communication becomes more important as colleges and universities nationwide face declining enrollments, long-term reductions in funding from state governments and stagnant support from the federal government,” read an email sent to students and faculty along with the link to the website. 

In the weeks prior to the athletic cuts, 60 secretarial employees were laid off, for budgetary reasons as well. Payne said the university is looking at another budget deficit for next year. 

EMU wrestling's GoFundMe page has reached $3,441 of its $250,000 goal, while EMU's men's swimming team's GoFundMe has reached $16,546 of its $90,000 goal as of March 25. 

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