Women’s ski team status remains uncertain

Currently of varsity rank, team may be demoted to club status depending on administration’s decision

Sports Editor
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Women’s ski team captains Nika Mosenthal ’15 and Amanda Engelhardt ’15 met with President Christina Paxson P’19 Friday to talk about administrators’ concerns and clear up related misconceptions.

After a meeting with President Christina Paxson P’19 Friday, the women’s ski team will be given a chance to respond in a two-page memo to concerns of hers that contributed to the potential decision to demote the team to club status, team members say.

Captains Nika Mosenthal ’15 and Amanda Engelhardt ’15 said Paxson believes that the team is under consideration to be demoted due to safety concerns from the need to travel long distances during the winter to practice. They said her views contrast sharply with those of Director of Athletics Jack Hayes and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn, both of whom emphasized in separate meetings that money was the primary issue.

“We were a little bit surprised to hear from her that from her understanding it was more about safety,” Engelhardt said.

“Safety has been mentioned previously, but it’s been a total aside,” Mosenthal added.

The athletes’ well-being was cited as a significant factor in the original 2011 Athletics Review Committee report that recommended the team be cut. Then-President Ruth Simmons said in her response that the team should devise a new practice plan to cut down travel time, which the team has done.

But the skiers said Paxson also acknowledged the team’s finances and asked them to create a document outlining a fundraising plan in addition to mollifying her concerns about their safety while traveling.

Mosenthal said Paxson wanted to see a “clear path to where the administration wants (the team) to be” financially — a significant departure from Hayes’ strong implication that the team could be cut as soon as March 18 if it could not come up with $1.5 million for its endowment.

Overall, the skiers felt their meeting with Paxson was encouraging.

“She was pretty positive with us,” Engelhardt said. “She gave us probably the most room to work with out of anyone we have met with so far. … We were definitely happy coming out of the meeting.”

Another topic of discussion in the meeting was the short timeline the school imposed for fundraising. Mosenthal and Engelhardt said Paxson explained that the school wanted a decision to be made soon about the status of the team because admission decisions will be released March 31. Potential students who may want to join the skiing team could then make matriculation decisions with full knowledge of the team’s future status.

But Mosenthal said the team has no recruiting spots for the upcoming year, and it is unlikely that a ski racer talented enough to join the team would apply and plan to walk on instead of simply attending another school. The only new skier set to join the team next season was accepted last year and deferred her acceptance. Therefore, rushing a decision based on admission concerns “doesn’t really make sense,” she said, adding, “It would be more unfair to the people on the team.”

Engelhardt added that Paxson “might not have known” about the team’s lack of recruits for this year.

The skiers said Paxson was able to learn a lot about the team during their conversations. She believed team members drove themselves to practice, citing that as a safety concern, when in fact Head Coach Michael Leblanc drives them. She also asked what the implications of being demoted would be for the team competitively, specifically wondering whether it was simply “a status thing,” Engelhardt said.

If demoted, team members would have to drive themselves to practice, and skiers would be in more danger if denied access to the school’s athletic trainers, increasing the likelihood of injury, Engelhardt said.

But the skiers understood Paxson’s confusion and appreciated her desire to learn. “She made it sound like she was aware of the fact that she needed to do more research,” Mosenthal said.

At the same time, Mosenthal and Engelhardt said misconceptions about the team have become a trend in their meetings with administrators.

“It’s frustrating to even get the question, ‘What would it mean to be demoted to club?’” Mosenthal said. “It’s the same as if you asked that of our football team. What would it mean if we had a club football team? They wouldn’t be competitive.”

“If you are going to put a team up for demotion, you should make sure you have all of the facts straight,” she added.

The skiers said they plan to finish the memo in the next day or two and have scheduled a meeting with the Brown Sports Foundation Thursday. Mosenthal said the purpose of the meeting is to “build a bridge” and help establish a rapport, adding that the BSF has been “on our side” throughout.

After spring break, the skiers hope to meet with Hayes again, in light of their memo and meetings with other administrators.

The skiers said that, as they understand it, the process for a decision will begin with a recommendation from Hayes. The recommendation will then be decided upon by a group of people, including Paxson, Hayes, Klawunn, members of the Corporation and the BSF.

A specific timeframe for a final decision about the team’s fate is unknown.

  • ShadrachSmith

    This is about insurance liability.