Many thanks to the Conor McCabe, Jackson Leech and Kameron Jones for taking the time to chat about the recent cuts of Clemson's men's track and field and XC programs. You can sign their petition by clicking the below links...
What were your first thoughts, emotions and reactions when hearing that Clemson University was cutting their men’s track and cross country programs?
Conor McCabe: Sadness and disbelief. I couldn’t understand why a university like Clemson would need to eliminate such a historic program. It was heartbreaking to hear that I wouldn’t get to continue doing what I love most with my teammates.
Jackson Leech: Astonishment and confusion. I was completely blindsided and upset at such a decision that came seemingly out of nowhere. I was distraught thinking about college without running and being without my teammates.
Kameron Jones: My initial reaction was confusion. It didn’t add up to me. How is one of the most prosperous athletic departments in the country cutting teams? I understand that every university in the country is undergoing financial issues, but I thought an athletic department of this caliber would have the foresight to be able to cut costs without limiting student-athlete opportunities. When the athletic director explained their process, it did not seem to be as exhaustive as they claimed. They made no effort to reach out to donors, alumni, etc. to save our program.
How far in advance were you informed of this decision? Following the announcement, what opportunities (if at all) did you have to speak with school administrators?
Conor McCabe: Within hours, we were notified about a meeting with our Athletic Director, we were told that our men’s program was being discontinued and the public was informed immediately. We were all blindsided and told the decision was final.
Jackson Leech: I was told to be at the meeting about an hour before and our coaches were informed an hour before us. We had a meeting and the floor was opened for questions. It was very difficult to make sense of things in that moment.
When seeing other programs around the country being cut, did you have any sense of urgency or concern that your program(s) would also be cut? Did you feel any extra sense of security knowing that Clemson is an established ACC program?
Conor McCabe: It really hurt seeing programs across the country being cut, but I never mentally prepared for it to happen to me. My sense of security probably came from the university’s reputation and the success of Clemson Track over the years. It’s crazy to think that they could get rid of a team with 23 ACC Track titles, 7 ACC Cross titles, and 16 NCAA titles.
Jackson Leech: It was always something we thought other schools with less economic resources during COVID might have to consider, but I never thought a Power Five team would have to cut a team based on budgets. Especially a football superpower like Clemson.
Men’s track and cross country were the only athletic programs at Clemson that were cut. What is your understanding of why no other sports teams were eliminated?
Conor McCabe: Since XC, indoor and outdoor track count as three separate sports, Clemson just dropped their varsity sport offerings from 19 down to the NCAA minimum of 16. If any other programs were cut, they would not be in compliance.
Jackson Leech: I see it as a convenience for the athletic department dealing with an issue that they see in the future with Title IX; since there are three seasons and three teams, the lazy route was chosen without considering other options.
Kameron Jones: I believe that this wasn't about the money or Title IX. The athletic department claims that they will save 2.5 million dollars, which is minor compared to the 25 million dollar budgetary shortfall they are claiming. In the financial statements that were presented to us, the athletic department included items like the costs of our home meets in the financial statements. Because the women’s team will remain and the AD stated that they won't be eliminating the meets, many of the costs associated with the mens team will still remain because the women’s team will remain in existence.
They really are not saving as much money as they are claiming. In addition, the Title IX issue is an issue that they are anticipating. It is not a pressing issue. There are many ways to limit roster sizes without eliminating an entire team. But as Jackson stated, the athletic department decided to take the lazy route.
What have conversations with other members of the running community, specifically within the ACC, been like?
Conor McCabe: The support we’ve received from the running community has been incredible. Athletes, coaches, and alumni have uplifted us, demonstrating how special our sport is. People have gotten involved not only to help save Clemson’s program, but to stop the trend of major track programs being shut down.
Jackson Leech: I have never felt more involved and loved by the running community, our alumni have been amazing. There has been support all over the country and a lot of support from other olympic sports.
Have there been any conversations regarding transferring from Clemson athletes?
Conor McCabe: Regarding myself and the teammates I have spoken with, our main focus is getting our program back.
Jackson Leech: Reinstatement is the number one priority. Other options will be explored if not.
What is the plan for Clemson XCTF athletes moving forward? What efforts towards reinstatement are the impacted student-athletes making? How can the running community help?
Conor McCabe: Throughout this past year, the Clemson community has prided itself on standing for UNITY. But the decision to cut our program completely goes against this. Rather than adding more opportunities for women to comply with Title IX, Clemson decided to cut one of its most diverse and inclusive men’s sports. By creating awareness and sharing the impact that this decision will have on diversity, college track and field, and the legacy of our program, we hope to be reinstated.
Jackson Leech: We want to run with our brothers and sisters next year because this team is and has always been a family. It breaks my heart to see the issues of diversity and unity swept over by a university I trusted so much to care about. I feel wronged in many ways and I hope that they can unwrite this wrong in some way. This should have never happened and I hope through protests, petitions and social outreach we will come back stronger than ever.