The University of Richmond — and particularly its athletic director Jim Miller — betrayed its athletes this weekend.
The Richmond men’s track & field team has not been ordinary. The Spiders — who have been named as an Academic All-America team 10 years running — posted the nation’s best grade point average (3.51) a year ago while representing the University scholarship-free. Just a group of 19 guys fully committed athletically and academically to their institution.
But Coach Steve Taylor got a disturbing text from his boss as the team worked out the other day and let his runners know before cool downs at the end of practice. His guys could see the serious look on Taylor’s face as he told them that they’d all been summoned to meet with the AD later in the day.
There hadn’t been any preemptive discussions — “not a whisper,” said one runner — but Taylor knew that a team meeting with Miller was not a good thing.
After all, the Richmond athletic department — which features a bloated staff of 58 non-coaching administrators for just 360 athletes* — had been starving the program for the last decade. The men’s track team was the only sport without scholarships, a fact that the Spiders blamed on women.
Taylor’s concern was clearly justified. Miller announced that he was killing the men’s track & field program as well as the men’s soccer program to make room for men’s lacrosse. Oh, he also blamed it on the women. Apparently Title IX made him add men’s lacrosse.
So out with the kids with the high GPAs. Out with the international sports which attract diversity. In with the country club suburbanites who couldn’t succeed athletically in anything but a niche, homogeneous sport.
I tried calling the athletic department at Richmond six times today. All different numbers. No one answered. I guess it’s kinda hard to answer for such a disgraceful décision.
I know I am a broken record, but to protect the sport our people — family, friends, alumni, parents and more — need to support it. We need outreach and connection. We need to make the meets more fan-friendly. We need to engage and be our own best marketers. We need to build an environment that wouldn’t allow some flailing administrator to set his sights on our sport. I am not talking about the Heps schools, but the broader world of college track & field.
Don’t let there be another Richmond, or another Delaware, or Seton Hall, or St. John’s, or Maryland.