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Tom Miller: Was UND sports meeting just an epic embarrassment?

Talk to any circle in Grand Forks lately about UND's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and its task of submitting recommendations to President Mark Kennedy, and you hear the same phrase over and over.

Swimming head coach Chris Maiello gives his presentation Tuesday afternoon to the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, President Mark Kennedy and a room full of supporters at Robin Hall at UND.
Swimming head coach Chris Maiello gives his presentation Tuesday afternoon to the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, President Mark Kennedy and a room full of supporters at Robin Hall at UND. Grand Forks Herald photo by Jesse Trelstad
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Talk to any circle in Grand Forks lately about UND's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and its task of submitting recommendations to President Mark Kennedy, and you hear the same phrase over and over.

It has already been decided.

The consensus around town is Kennedy has already made up his mind about which sports will stay and which sports will go.

If that's the case, Tuesday was an epic embarrassment for UND. The only way Tuesday's IAC meeting wasn't cruel and unusual punishment is if the IAC actually has any influence on the final decision.

Otherwise, if the majority opinion is correct and Kennedy has no actual intention of leaning on the committee for counsel, Tuesday's meeting was an incredibly inhumane exercise.

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Imagine if UND swim coach Chris Maiello gave an epic, moving 30-minute speech, which produced tears out of the coach and many of his athletes in attendance, only to fall on the ears of a committee assembled for show and not for substance.

For UND's leadership, it's sure a brutal way to go about hunting down athletic buy-in from the academic side. And that's really the whole point of this silly undertaking.

If it wasn't just an act to pretend to give power to the faculty and supporters, UND athletic director Brian Faison and Kennedy would sit in a room together and hammer it out.

But does this committee truly accomplish some sort of harmony between athletics and academics at UND, anyway? If anything, so far it's driving a wedge further between the two groups.

Tuesday's pleas, tears and heartache need to matter.

This committee, and of course ultimately Kennedy, shouldn't, and surely won't, make decisions based on emotion.

Budget cuts are always going to be tough. They're going to hurt someone. But the coaches and athletes' words, documents and figures presented in such a public, heart-wrenching manner should hold some meaningful weight in the final decision.

Because if Tuesday's meeting never mattered to Kennedy, who wants to stay at the type of place that treats its own that way in the first place?

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Tom Miller

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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