Maryland officially cuts 7 sports; men's track saved

Even now, those most affected by the elimination of seven Maryland athletic teams speak about it in language usually reserved for tragedies.

They talk about "shock" and "denial," or use other words that sound more like stages of grief than reaction to a college athletics budget decision.

But that's how the cuts feel. Personal.

"People ask me what keeps me up at night, and this is what keeps me up at night," athletic director Kevin Anderson told reporters Monday as he confirmed that seven teams were being discontinued.

Anderson, who informed coaches and athletes of the decision, called the experience "one of the most difficult things I've ever encountered in my entire life besides death to immediate family members."

An eighth targeted sport – men's outdoor track – has accumulated enough private money to compete at least during the 2012-13 outdoor season, according to Maryland, which announced details of the reconfigured team Monday.

More than $888,000 has been raised to preserve outdoor track. That was deemed close enough to the school's target of $940,000 to continue the team, which will now need to have raised at least $1.88 million total by Dec. 31 to further extend its life.

The M Club, an organization of former Terps athletes, pitched in $175,000, according to the school.

The team will have 14 members. That's about half of the roster of the men's track program that competed this spring. The number of scholarships will remain at 10 — the current level.

Men's cross country and indoor track are among the teams being discontinued, although some of their members may be able to stay in the program on outdoor track.

The other teams cut — all were targeted by a university commission last year — 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.

All the teams were given the chance to raise funds for their survival. But the goals were steep — for example, $11.6 million to sustain men's and women's swimming and diving.

No team besides men's outdoor track came close. Swimming and diving raised the next highest sum at $184,716. Team members' parents said many swimmers and divers — particularly the freshmen and sophomores — sensed that the team was doomed long ago and began making plans to transfer.

Head track coach Andrew Valmon faces the difficult task of melding three teams into one. He said recently that he has considered it his duty to help team members leave if that is what they decide is best.

"In reality, what you want is what's best for the kid," Valmon said. "I told all the kids, 'If you want to to look, I'll help you look. I'll even make phone calls.'"

But Valmon, the USA men's head track coach for the upcoming Olympics, seemed to find it hard to comprehend what has happened to his program.

"You think about the economics of our sport. You still have the women's (track program continuing). That's why it didn't seem logical to us. At the end of the day what do you really get back from cutting men's track? You don't even get the land back because the women are still using it," Valmon said.

Valmon heard about the cuts on a November morning around the time members of his team were running up and down hills. A team meeting was called.

"We were gathered together and coaches were talking and everything," said cross country runner Kikanae Punyua, a freshman. "The moment we saw (Anderson), everybody just turned and things changed. Because there had been rumors around saying they might cut it. But as a track team we never thought they would cut it because of the history behind the team and because we're not really using any money — as much as other sports. So when we saw him, we were immediately like 'Oh my God.' Everybody cried."

Anderson cited the track program's history in prepared remarks. Maryland's track alumni includes hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, a three-time NCAA champion.

"Much work needs to be done, but we're fortunate that we now have a chance to preserve the long legacy of success that men's track and field has enjoyed at Maryland, including a string of 25 years of ACC team championships from 1956 to 1980," the athletic director said.

With seven teams gone, Maryland will have 20. The Atlantic Coast Conference average is 21.

Anderson, who arrived in October 2010, inherited an economic model under which Maryland was spreading itself too thin by trying to sustain 27 sports in difficult economic times. Declines in football revenue, men's basketball revenue and fund-raising were an important factor in the sports cuts. Byrd Stadium's modernized Tyser Tower, completed in September 2009, has been a financial disappointment.

Maryland said no figures were yet available on how much money the school is saving from the cuts.

"Right now it's incremental because we're honoring all the scholarships," Anderson said. "We won't really see the full savings until a three- or four-year period from this day forward."