The Long Run: Economic downturn claims Seton Hall track and field teams
By GERRY CHESTER
For The Norwich Bulletin
Posted Mar 06, 2010 @ 10:15 PM
The economic downturn has claimed another victim.
Seton Hall University, in order to “maximize its financial resources,” recently announced that four sports — men and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field — would be eliminated after this season.
In addition, to meet NCAA, Title IX, and Big East Conference requirements, the school will add women’s golf to give it the minimum allowable 14 sports.
While the Pirate track and field program is not at the level it has been in past years, it has a long and storied history. Over the years, it produced six Big East team titles, 19 Olympians — including two gold medal winners — 462 Big East individual champions since 1980, 120 All-Americans and eight NCAA champions. It is one of the most successful programs in Seton Hall athletic history.
For my son, Erik — a sophomore on the track team — one of the deciding factors that convinced him to originally attend Seton Hall and compete in track and field was the camaraderie and family-like atmosphere the coaches helped foster. Seton Hall gave him and many other student-athletes a place to enjoy an endeavor they loved in an atmosphere that was both supportive and healthy.
Unfortunately, on July 1, that will all come to an end.
When it comes to cutting track programs, Seton Hall is hardly alone. A number of NCAA schools have recently been forced to do the same.
On the surface, this cut is just another unfortunate sign of the economic dilemma that exists today in all aspects of our society, from education and business to college athletics.
The issue at hand is college budgets are increasing faster than money can be raised to support them. Unfortunately, the first recourse for most schools is to cut the non-revenue generating programs such as track and field, swimming, or even baseball in some cases.
It seems track and field in this country may be destined to become a sport that only exists at schools with huge football or basketball revenues.
“This was a difficult choice to make,” athletic director Joseph Quinlan said. “It is not viable for us to continue to support the number of sports we do at the current level.”
The decision, which took more than 90 days to complete will transfer resources to the university’s remaining sports programs.
While this conclusion may not have been avoidable, what bothers many is the timing and how it was carried out.
John Moon, in his 38th year as head men’s and women’s track coach at Seton Hall referred to the decision as a “punch in the gut” as he was notified just one hour prior to its release to the press.
“I had no idea it was coming and nothing was ever said to me. It seems to me that something could have been worked out,” he said. Why possible options that would have postponed or even prevented this decision were never considered is open to debate.
From the viewpoint of a track and field fan, the harsh reality is there is now one fewer college in the United States that can provide the opportunity to compete in the sport of track and field.
The life lessons young people obtain through their competitive experiences as student-athletes in college provide important pathways on which to grow, not only as athletes, but as human beings as well.
Sometimes, life isn’t fair and for 58 student-athletes and their coaches, this is one of those times.
Gerry Chester writes a twice-monthly running column for The Norwich Bulletin. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.