There was a mix of frustration, confusion and empathy in the student athletes who showed up to petition against the roster management plan at St. Cloud State University Wednesday night at Halenbeck.
Athletes began filing into the gym around 5 p.m. to show their support and sign the petitions. More and more students entered the gym, walked up to the table to sign the petition before connecting with fellow student athletes.
The rally was organized in light of St. Cloud State announcing a decision to cut six athletic programs. According to St. Cloud State, the decision came in to address the university’s budget issues and a roster management program to meet Title IX compliance, among other factors including investment needs, financial support and participation.
The roster management plan affects both men’s and women’s athletic teams. St. Cloud State said in their announcement to cut the six athletic programs that there will be “modest” increases to women’s programs, while men’s baseball, football, swimming & diving, and wrestling programs will see fewer athletes on the teams.
The university reported that around 80 student athletes will be affected because of these cuts. But, almost 200 students and student athletes gathered to show their support in the gym.
Monty Holm, who’s on the wrestling team, said the team’s roster is going from 52 to 38 athletes. Not only are they losing seniors this year, the wrestling team may have to make additional cuts, he said.
“I can see myself getting cut,” he said, adding his past two seasons weren’t his best.
“We have so many good athletes [at weigh-ins],” he said. “We’re all pissed off, because we don’t understand why we’re getting cut.”
The gym continued to fill around 5:30 p.m. Other students, some whose team wasn’t seeing potential cuts, still showed up to support their fellow student athletes.
Leauna Hauser, Jenni Miska and Ericka Blair are on the cheer team. While their team isn’t being directly affected by the roster management plan, they seemed to be able to sympathize.
Miska, who’s a transfer student, said being on the cheer team is what’s kept her at St. Cloud State University. She fell in love with cheer, she said, adding that not being able to do what you love would hurt.
“You have all these students who are committed, and for all that to end so abruptly…” Blair said, trailing off in frustration.
Miska said, “I don’t know what I would do.”
Hauser said she thinks the university didn’t address the cutbacks in the right way, claiming that they didn’t take some student athletes into consideration.
Around 200 student athletes were gathered in the gym when Gabe Fogarty, a three-time All-America award winner on the men’s wrestling team, read a letter he wrote addressed to the St. Cloud State community.
People crowded together. The gym grew quiet, echoing the footfalls and rustling of the simmering crowd.
Fogarty held the microphone close and began reading. He started, “I write this from the bottom of my heart, expressing my love of a sport and all that it has done for me throughout my life, with great concern with what is happening on campus at St. Cloud State University.”
Fogarty’s letter talked about his long history with the sport, noting the structure and opportunities that came from being on the team.
“It is the only reason I am in college and chose to attend St. Cloud State,” he read.
He expressed his concern for the wrestling team being in danger of losing members of the program, especially after bringing home another NCAA Division II National Championship title.
But, the letter wasn’t only about the wrestling team. He went onto explain the backing and support given to the women’s team at St. Cloud State, asking for the university to reconsider cutting programs.
“We recognize women’s sports need more help and support at the local, state and national level, and we are allies who support their successes too,” he said.
He went onto share his concern over Title IX “interpretations,” specifically mentioning discrimination against male athletes.
“If Title IX is the sole reason for the dropping of sports and roster management, then wrestling programs ask for the Administration’s support for sticking up for proportional equity and contribution to ending gender discrimination as a whole,” he said, reading from his letter.
He continued reading from the letter, but the second half talked more to the student athletes and the campus community.
“We can at least change our attitude to believe we can do something about this,” he said. “Even if it’s restricted to adapting our hearts so the decisions that were made do not break the spirit of our fellow athletes and students.”
Fogarty spoke to the crowd, encouraging the entire student body to stand against gender discrimination and inequality. He finished reading his letter, thanking the crowd that was applauding him.
“I have faith, if we can do this with the support of this university, we can grab the attention of this great state and nation, working together to end discrimination,” he said.