The meeting occurred on the outdoor track — their track. Members of the Maryland men's and women's track and field teams sat in a semicircle between the starting line and high-jump pit and were told the men's program was being recommended for elimination.
And then some hardened athletes — who are normally adept at pushing forward through pain and fatigue — began to cry.
"It was definitely emotional," said senior sprinter Floyd Hawkes (Western Tech), whose Monday had begun as it often does — with his running up and down hills near Comcast Center at 6:15 a.m.
"No one really saw it coming," Hawkes said Tuesday of athletic director Kevin Anderson's arriving at the afternoon meeting with word that the men's track teams (indoor, outdoor and cross country) were among eight teams targeted by a university commission studying ways to boost revenue and cut costs. "He [Anderson] walked onto the track, and the whole mood changed. We weren't expecting to get a visit from him."
The other teams on the list are men's tennis, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, women's water polo and women's acrobatics and tumbling, formerly called "competitive cheer."
A day after learning which teams were endangered, many affected athletes and parents were studying budget numbers to help them lobby university president Wallace Loh, who is expected to make the final decisions about the teams within a few weeks. According to parents, some members of the swim team met privately with Loh, but details weren't available. Some parents were looking into the possibility of raising private funds to try to preserve Maryland teams.
"We do feel like there's a shot," said John Hughes, a financial advisor and the father of swim team member Katie Hughes."They're all pretty devastated. They put their hearts into this program, and their hearts were torn out. The parents are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and find some solutions to the financial problem."
Anderson, who arrived at Maryland 13 months ago, said in a letter to the Terrapin Club: " While I would not wish these circumstances on anyone, I was brought to Maryland to lead and I am prepared to make the hard decisions necessary to make Maryland Athletics a model department with respect to academic, competitive and financial success and stability."
If college is partly about learning life lessons, then Monday's was that things don't go always as expected.
A shared reaction among many Maryland athletes and parents seemed to be surprise. While it was no secret that the athletic department had long-standing budget issues, few athletes or their parents seemed to believe their programs could be the ones to go.
"I think people were shocked," said Becky Yep (Mount Hebron), a distance runner on the women's track team. While the team was not on the list, many of the members regard their male counterparts as their "brothers," Yep said.
"There were people [at the meeting] crying — guys and girls," Yep said. "There was [senior] Kiani Profit. I've never seen her anything but tough. I've never seen her cry before. She said, 'You know, I can't imagine training without you guys here.' Unlike many other collegiate teams, we practice together [with the men]. We travel together. We take the same bus. Our schedules are linked."
The commission, created by Loh in July, recommended that any discontinued teams be permitted to continue competing until July 2012.
"The big thing for us is we're just remaining optimistic and positive — keeping kids going," said Andrew Valmon, who heads the men's and women's track and field program and was named in February to coach the U.S. men's team that will compete in the 2012 Summer Games in London. "There's a season that we've got to prepare for," he said of the Terps.
Maryland's budget woes were years in the making. The commission cited revenue declines in football, men's basketball, fundraising and other areas. The panel suggested Maryland had spread itself too thin by trying to sustain 27 sports in difficult economic times.
It also cited unsold luxury suites at Tyser Tower, part of Byrd Stadium. The tower, completed in September 2009, has been a financial disappointment.
Maryland's cumulative athletic department deficit is expected to rise to about $8.7 million by the end of the 2013 fiscal year without action by the school.