After Wednesday’s announcement that the men’s soccer and men’s tennis athletic programs will be cut from Valparaiso University, athletes, such as senior tennis player Brandon Ancona, are choosing to speak out.
According to Ancona, the tennis team was blind-sided by the University’s decision to cut their program, as they had no indication that the board was investigating what teams to cut.
“We always thought we were pretty safe as a sport here just with our recent success, for sure the most successful team on campus for probably five or six years now,” Ancona said.
The tennis team, as well as the soccer team, were called into team meetings on Wednesday afternoon to be given the news. However, according to Ancona, the team was already aware.
“You know, initially we found out because someone from the soccer team texted one of our guys on the team and said ‘I guess there’s rumors going around that we could be cut’ and they said they have a team meeting and we were like yeah we have a team meeting today too,” Ancona said.
Ancona felt that he and his teammates were some of the last people to find out about the team being cut. An email was sent to student-athletes prior to the campus-wide email, and according to Ancona, members of the tennis team didn’t receive this email.
“A couple of my teammates said that their classmates would tap them on the shoulder and ask if it was true and that was how they found out,” Ancona said.
Ancona also said throughout the day on Wednesday, he received weird looks and apologies from his fellow classmates.
“At that point, I think I already knew. I had already figured because of the evidence we had that we could be getting cut, but pretty much every student-athlete knew before we were actually told that,” said Ancona.
Some of the team, however, didn’t find out until right before the team meeting.
“Two of the freshman didn’t know and we had to tell them and it was really sad,” Ancona said.
“One of the freshmen thought we were joking with him. He would not believe us for a solid two minutes and we had to show him text messages from other people and stuff because he just wouldn’t believe it.”
During the meeting with President Mark Heckler and Athletic Director Mark LaBarbara, Ancona said the team received little explanation.
“In that meeting, we fired away a lot of questions to them and it was really hard. We didn’t feel like we got any answers,” said Ancona.
When asked why these teams had been cut, LaBarbera responded with a similar response given to a Torch reporter during an interview on Thursday afternoon.
“So what was determined was the department was too big. We really are bigger than the vast majority of schools that look like us. And in order to be successful in sports, we need to be able to better focus on smaller number of sports,” LaBarbara said. “So that's what the what this was about the ability to give us the ability to focus better on a smaller number of sport.”
According to Ancona, the tennis team understood this, but didn’t understand why their program.
“We understood that, it was just really hard for us to understand why the combination of men’s tennis and men’s soccer,” Ancona said. “We kinda just thought that there is no way they’re going to cut us; we’re a winning tradition, we created a great culture and we created a great team that it would just be crazy for them to throw this away so I think that was the toughest thing for us,” Ancona said.
Despite the news, Ancona is able to understand why the University had to have this decision, but not the way they enacted or made their decision
“It was a really tough call I understand that they had to cut some teams, it’s just really hard the way they went about it. I feel like the university and the athletic department are struggling to produce strong performing teams and I hope it’s going in the right direction,” Ancona said.
The tennis team is thankful they still are able to play one last season this upcoming spring and hope to make it a good one.
“It’s going to be a really tough season probably one of the toughest seasons coming up. I’m hoping we can go out with a bang and have a good last season,” Ancona said.