Athletes from cut sports still feel that Maryland betrayed them

COLLEGE PARK — The announcement that Maryland might reinstate some of its dropped sports surprised most everybody — including athletes who say they still feel betrayed by the cuts and even the man who will co-chair a panel to study the issue.

Barry Gossett attended a wedding over the weekend and was still in Florida when he heard — via streaming video — when Maryland president Wallace D. Loh said Monday that the school's entry into the Big Ten may provide enough cash to restore some of the seven sports discontinued June 30.


"I thought, 'That's news to me,' " said Gossett, a regent and top donor who is expected to co-chair the commission that will study Maryland's finances and recommend whether some of the teams may be able to return.

"I'm more than happy to do it," Gossett said Tuesday.


Gossett said it's too soon to speculate how many sports may be reinstated, or which ones, and he likened such difficult decisions to a "tug of war."

For many athletes, the anticipated financial windfall from shared Big Ten television revenue will arrive too late. Maryland, which announced Monday that it is leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference, is not expected to begin participating in the Big Ten until July 2014.

"Lives were changed and dreams were crushed," said Mike Halligan, whose daughter Amy transferred from Maryland because the swim team was among those cut. "He [Loh] can't make that go away because he is taking [Maryland] to the Big Ten."

In 2011, Gossett chaired the commission that recommended that eight of the university's 27 teams be discontinued because of severe, longstanding budget issues. Seven teams were eventually dropped.

"We had to reduce teams to protect the other teams that are there," Gossett said. "It's like, 'Which is your favorite kid?' You can't answer that question. It may be easier [this time] to pick the winner as opposed to picking the loser."

Last year, athletic director Kevin Anderson went from team to team relaying the bad news. One meeting was held at the pool and another near the track. Anderson has likened eliminating teams to "losing some family members."

The teams cut were men's tennis, men's track and field (indoor and cross country), men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, women's water polo and women's acrobatics and tumbling.

Many affected athletes struggled with whether to remain at Maryland.


Amy Halligan, now a junior, transferred to Western Kentucky after the swim team was eliminated.

Halligan, of Timonium, felt conflicted when she heard Monday that Loh said Maryland is "absolutely committed to begin the process to reinstate some of the teams we had to terminate."

While Halligan is pleased for future team members, she said the announcement "is dredging up emotions that I don't know how to handle. I've been trying to put distance between myself and Maryland."

Halligan recalls the emotional day when Anderson arrived at the pool with the bad news. "We all sort of sat there in silence," she said. "It was utter shock."

She said swim team members had been told by Maryland that the athletic program faced long-term financial issues. She said she is perplexed at how those issues disappeared so quickly.

Another affected athlete, cross country runner Kikanae Punyua, said Tuesday: "They've already done the damage. They've already cut the sport."


While the cross country team was among those eliminated, outdoor track was saved through fundraising. Punyua is going to see if he can transition to outdoor track events when the season begins in 2013.

Maryland said its shift to the Big Ten will help future athletes.

"We understand that moving to the Big Ten does little to erase the pain of those affected by the team cuts last year," Maryland spokesman Brian Ullmann said. "But, as President Loh said at the press conference, this move provides the long-term financial stability so we never have to face that difficult situation again."