After Wednesday’s announcement of the discontinuation of the Valparaiso University men's soccer and men's tennis teams, the athletes are left with more questions than answers.
The Torch spoke to three men’s soccer players, who agreed to share their thoughts, but asked to have their names withheld.
The athletes believe their Head Coach, Mike Avery, was informed of the administration’s decision to discontinue the men’s soccer and tennis teams around 9 a.m. on Nov. 20; only a few hours before the story was leaked to the Valpo community.
“The time and the way in which [the administration] communicated the information was completely wrong and disrespectful for coaches, for the staff, and also for the players,” said one of the soccer players.
According to one of the players, a Valpo student-athlete saw a document saying both the men’s tennis and men’s soccer programs would be cut and relayed the news to the affected teams.
The men’s soccer players were told there would be a meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the future of their team.
“We all knew before the meeting,” said a member of the men’s soccer team.
“At first, I thought it was a prank. I didn’t think in a day they had that kind of power [to completely cut a program],” another player said.
President Mark Heckler and Athletic Director Mark LaBarbara informed the teams of the discontinuation of their program.
“[Heckler and LaBarbara] just confirmed what we already knew.”
But the meeting left the players with more concerns and questions as to how, when and why their program was being cut.
“They didn’t give any valuable reasons.”
The players speculated their program was cut in order to have more money for other men’s sports. They question why the administration would cut two of the most successful men’s sports.
When a Torch reporter interviewed LaBarbara and asked if there was a possibility of stopping the programs from being cut, LaBarbara responded,
“Well, that’s certainly not the way the review came out. That's certainly not the recommendation from the board.”
“He [Heckler] really wouldn’t go into specifics,” a soccer player said. “We ask a question, they would just avoid the question.”
As stated in LaBarbara’s email, yesterday the Athletic Oversight Committee of the Board of Directors conducted a review of university athletics.
“The final conversation around what the results of the review were were at the last board meeting at the end of October,” said LaBarbara.
“It’s guaranteed they knew during our season,” a soccer player said. “That was the only thing we managed to get out of them.”
Some may see this late notice as an obstacle for players wishing to transfer to another school as they explained how at this point in the academic year, most scholarships are already given out. National Signing Day for 2020-2021 season has already passed and the recruitment process of many of their athletes has passed as well.
“It is possible, but it’s hard right now,” a member of the soccer team said. “It’s hard because we are very very close to the beginning of the spring [season], so [to] find a team right now, [and if you’re] looking for a scholarship, it’s hard.”
According to the email sent out by LaBarbara, and student-athletes, if any soccer or tennis player wished to remain enrolled at Valparaiso University, they would still retain their scholarships.
“At the end of the day, they told us too late,” said one of the soccer players. “They were only really thinking about themselves, they didn't care about the players.”
“The email said that they’ve been reviewing since 2017, at least they could have given us a heads up.”
The men’s soccer team has been the banner program for diversity and inclusion throughout the years. The #oneVALPO initiative was started by Avery and the soccer team and, according to the players, their team has been used by the university to showcase diversity.
“It’s a selfish act, what they did.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes more available.