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SCHLOSSMAN: Just read between the lines

In next week's act of the Three-Ring Circus, six UND head coaches will be paraded in front of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and new President Mark Kennedy.

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In next week's act of the Three-Ring Circus, six UND head coaches will be paraded in front of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and new President Mark Kennedy.

They will be given roughly 20 minutes to beg for their jobs and the future of their programs.

Could there be a more demeaning and insulting way to continue this process?

We're about a month away from Kennedy's planned announcement of budget cuts in the athletic department and several things are becoming clear.

No. 1: Sports are going to be cut. Kennedy has continually stated his desire to win championships and fund spotlight sports at high levels. That means cutting some sports to better fund others, if you read between the lines.

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No. 2: The 18-person IAC, made up of half professors and half athletic representatives, is not fit to be making big decisions about the athletic department. The first three meetings were spent educating members on basic items of the athletic department. They are not well versed enough to make decisions that could have wide-ranging impact.

This is not the fault of committee members. They did not ask for this assignment. They were unfairly put in this position to be the face of this process.

No. 3: There's still no evidence that this committee wields any power whatsoever. There is no evidence that this is not just a sideshow in the name of collaborative governance. It's looking more like Kennedy has either already made his decision or he's pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

At Monday's meeting, committee members were given a sheet by chair Kimberly Kenville that identified 12 sports that UND is "committed to sponsoring," which shows Kennedy is already making decisions for the committee.
One of the sports on the list is women's hockey. For the past several months, people in the community have been speculating that it could get cut.

Not only has that caused anguish for people who work with the program and its athletes, it has undoubtedly been used against UND in recruiting. If it's not even under consideration for being cut, why let it hang for two months?

Of the eight sports currently sitting on the chopping block, three are core sports in the Big Sky Conference-men's tennis, women's tennis and women's golf. Because associate athletic director Daniella Irle said that UND would still be in the Big Sky come Kennedy's self-imposed November deadline, why float them out there as possibilities to get cut?

That boils it down to five sports-men's golf (which has already been cut once and revived), softball, men's swimming, women's swimming and soccer.

UND will likely cut one to four of them. It cannot cut all five because of Title IX issues.

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Anyone who attended Monday's meeting could see the anguish and exasperation on the faces of softball coach Jordan Stevens and swimming coach Chris Maiello as they watched committee members take five minutes to vote on how many sports they think UND should sponsor.

Only committee member Lowell Schweigert spoke up to say he didn't feel right about quickly voting on something so important.

"We're talking about people's livelihoods here," he said.

Exactly.

This decision could have been made between the president and athletic department officials a month ago without this unnecessary sideshow.
Dragging it out publicly, forcing the coaches to put on a presentation that probably doesn't matter a single bit, is cruel and does not make one big, happy family at UND.

This whole process has been a waste of time for committee members, a waste of stress for those involved in sports that will end up staying and an insulting way to get laid off for those who are not.

Related Topics: UND SPORTS
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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