Sports

Women’s ski team retains varsity status

Requires additional resources, team works with Athletics Dept. to develop fundraising plan

By
Sports Editor
Thursday, April 16, 2015

Director of Athletics Jack Hayes has recommended that the women’s ski team not be demoted to club status, mitigating earlier concerns that the team would be cut due to lack of financial support.

After co-captains Amanda Engelhardt ’15 and Nika Mosenthal ’15 met with administrators several times this semester to lobby for their team, members of the ski team met with Hayes this week and were informed that it would not be cut, the captains said.

“It’s a relief,” Engelhardt said of the news.

In a statement provided to The Herald, Hayes confirmed that he recommended to President Christina Paxson P’19 that the team not be cut and suggested “that we develop a fundraising plan with specific targets and timelines.” After Paxson approved the recommendation, Hayes met with team members and Head Coach Michael Leblanc “to review the fundraising expectations for the next two years,” Hayes said.

“The long-term goal remains … for the program to be financially self-sufficient,” he said.

Hayes’ decision marks the end of a process that began in 2011, when then-President Ruth Simmons commissioned the Athletics Review Committee to assess the role of sports at Brown. The committee recommended that Simmons slash four programs, including the women’s ski team. She eventually chose not to follow that recommendation, opting to keep those teams at the varsity level on the condition that they could “demonstrate that their supporters are able to endow their sport at the level deemed necessary by the University,” Simmons wrote in her response to the ARC’s report.

But the team continued to struggle with fundraising and was informed by the Athletics Department in Spring 2014 that it needed to improve its fundraising efforts.

The team met its goals for the fiscal years 2014 and 2015 but was still in jeopardy of being cut. Engelhardt and Mosenthal said Hayes implied during a February meeting that the team was likely to be demoted if it could not raise its endowment to $1.5 million in as little as three weeks.

But the skiers argued that the requirements Simmons established for teams in 2011 were unclear and that the Athletics Department failed to remain in contact with the team about fundraising goals, as Simmons stipulated.

Mosenthal said “the biggest reason” that the team was not demoted was the “vagueness” of Simmons’ response to the 2011 report.

“Over the next two years, we’re going to have to increase our fundraising substantially, but everything’s a lot more clear now, so we appreciate the fact that (Hayes) is taking the time to give us more concrete, realistic goals,” Mosenthal said.

Hayes “developed a certain pathway for us, and we’ll have checkpoints along the way, but they’re definitely way more reasonable” than the original demand of $1.5 million on short notice, she said.

Engelhardt said she was confident in the team’s ability to meet the fundraising benchmarks.

After initially expressing frustration with what they perceived as an Athletics Department unreceptive to their concerns, the captains were pleased with Hayes’ responsiveness.

The University cooperated with parents and the Brown Sports Foundation, which coordinates fundraising for all teams, to “figure out what reasonable and attainable goals would look like,” Engelhardt said.

“It was really nice to see that people listened,” Mosenthal said.

Given a second chance to fundraise effectively, the skiers will “make a more legitimate plan for how, on our side, the fundraising is going to work,” Engelhardt said. “Everyone’s really invested now.”

“The last thing I would want to see is for all the hard work that everyone put into saving the team … (to) mean pretty much nothing if the forward momentum is lost and people don’t keep working towards the goals that we now clearly have,” she added.

Having created a realistic plan with the Athletics Department, the skiers said they are happy to have secured the future of their team.

“In the end, the outcome was really positive, and everyone learned a lot,” Mosenthal said. “Going forward we’re in a good, very transparent, clear place.”