It feels strange and sad to be bidding farewell to a baseball team at the beginning of the season, even before players have been at the game long enough to revel in wins and suffer setbacks. But that’s the scenario for Towson University’s baseball team, which received the stinging news earlier this month.
When Towson University president Maravene Loeschke publicly announced to the school’s baseball and soccer players on Friday March 8, 2013 that she had decided to cut both teams from the sports program, she made the disappointing news abruptly. Loeschke gave the players only about an hour’s notice before the announcement, but she had time enough to arrange for security: she was flanked by several police officers as she departed from the hasty announcement. Obviously, the president knew the revelation wouldn’t be met favorably.
Critics denounced the process that led to Loeschke’s decision as lacking transparency and using unreliable data. Having followed the story since news of the possible pending cuts first broke last year, I felt like I wanted to know more too. So I was excited when I read the headline of the commentary in the Baltimore Sun this past Sunday: Painful cuts TU needs, by Maravene Loeschke. This is it, I thought. Finally I will understand the whys behind the canned assertions of “achieving fiscal stability and Title IX compliance.” I guess I should have known better.
I’m not sure what I expected Loeschke to say that would make up for or somehow soften her unpopular announcement. After all, she had just squashed the dreams of dozens of college athletes who had committed a large chunk of their childhoods honing their athletic prowess in order to be selected as members of a prestigious Divison I team, only to have that goal abruptly shattered like a baseball through a window, but through no fault of their own. What I didn’t expect to read were the callous, hollow words that forced me to re-read specific lines more than once, hoping I’d somehow misread them.
Here are some highlights or, rather, lowlights, from Loeschke’s commentary:
“It is time for Towson University to invest in on our student-athletes and compete like a Division 1 program.” Uh, I suppose she was referring to those student-athletes that the university hasn’t dumped? Because, clearly, the school has decided not to invest in the baseball and soccer student-athletes.
After I pulled my jaw up from the dining room table, it fell back down again when I read this line: “The university will now move forward in support of every student athlete, whether they choose to continue their studies at Towson with their athletic scholarships intact or transfer.”
Critics of the cuts say the real reason Towson University placed its soccer and baseball programs on the chopping block was to cover the cost of high-profile sports football and basketball. Had Loeschke said that in her commentary, I’d have been far less disappointed than the thoughtless bureaucratic dribble that spewed from her article.
Even if she’d just let her guard down for a second and said something like “I, along with scores of other folks, will miss watching these young men play America’s favorite game on our university’s fine diamond next spring,” I would have been somewhat satisfied. But that’s the romantic in me. And I don’t think romanticism has a place within a modern-day university president forced to deal with the ugly side of sports.