The other morning, I signed on to Facebook to find a status update that contradicted most of the headlines that I’ve been reading since January:
“UMD MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD LIVES!”
It was an update posted by my friend and former teammate, Floyd Hawkes, a senior at the University of and Maryland and a 100m/200m specialist.
Doomsday for men’s cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, along with five other athletic programs was scheduled for July 1 if each team was incapable of producing the necessary funding. Well it was July 2nd, and I had already assumed that Maryland Track had sung it’s swan song.
But, according to the mighty Facebook, that apparently was not the case.
Eager to learn more, I began scouring the online editions of the Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. Only seconds later, I began to get more information without having to consult the local papers. Several of my former teammates were leaving me texts to share the good news: Having achieved the first of a series of fundraising benchmarks thanks to countless gracious donors, the Terps’ men’s track and field team will survive at least one more year. It was the only program that survived one of the darkest eras of UMD Athletic.
They only will field an outdoor track team for the 2013 season. No indoor track. And no cross country.
It was about March or April when I first heard a 14-man roster would be a possibility if the program garnered enough funds. At the time, I was pretty negative about the prospect of cutting what already was a small team in half. Knowing that the Terps’ Athletic Department places a heavy emphasis on how their teams place amongst their ACC rivals, is fielding a scantly-populated team with bare-bones amenities even worth their time?
But I’ve come around. Why?
Because it’s about the athletes.
After hearing some of the must frustrating news of their lives amidst the sweeping program cuts, 27 student-athletes had to ask some difficult questions: Do I stay at UMD? Do I transfer? I love it here–should I remain at UMD and effectively terminate my D1 track career?
Yes, a 14-man roster is small, and re-establishing the team as a national powerhouse (as it was from the late 50′s through the 80′s) will be…well…nearly impossible. Yet, keeping the team alive for at least one more season allows for the upperclassmen to reach the metaphorical finish line while still wearing red and black proudly. Likewise, it gives the underclassmen some time to think of what their next moves will be.
And who knows: Maybe the team can develop a sound fundraising strategy that will allow them to stay viable?
Sure, there has already been damage that can’t be undone, and there will be some tough decisions. Athletes have transferred. Recruiting has been seriously hampered. And money will be tighter than ever. Additionally, how will they choose who is to comprise the mini-roster? Surely, some athletes will be left out.
But, if I know this team (and I do), I know that they’ve borne this cross as a unit. So there is no reason, in my mind, to feel as though anyone will be “left out.” Those who have been accepted as a part of the UMD Track & Field family, are, and always will be, Terps.
For a track team to competitive at a collegiate championship level, it doesn’t necessarily need great depth. 14 men can make a statement.
Opportunities abound for those who train to be their best.
And for those who will represent the University of Maryland for the upcoming outdoor track season, they will be allowed to say, “Ah, yes. The 2013 ACC Championships. That was a great race.”
It’s better than having to say, “I wonder what could’ve been…”
To make donations to the UMD Men’s Track and Field Program, click here.