A big thank you to Martin Martinez (a recent Brown XCTF distance running graduate), Eric Ingram (a current Brown TF sprinter) and Dominic Morganti (a current Brown XCTF distance runner) for speaking about the recent news of Brown University cutting their men's cross country and track programs.
To support the men's XC and track teams at Brown University,
you can sign their petition which can be found here.
Could you tell us your first thoughts and emotions when you heard that Brown was cutting men’s track and cross country and transitioning to a club sport?
Martin Martinez: Pure disbelief. I got a message from a former teammate with the news before Brown sent its official email and I thought he was joking. Once it became apparent that this was actually real, I was shocked, angered, and distraught.
Eric Ingram: This was one of the worst parts about this whole ordeal for me. We were only given an hour notice that we would be having a Zoom call at 1pm, and most athletes on my team missed it, including me. So my first thoughts were disbelief. I thought it was a joke because I found out via GroupMe from my teammates. I was in complete denial and shock until our head coach followed up and said we would have a whole team meeting to further discuss the news. The lack of warning and clarity in regards to this decision (which apparently has been in the works for 2+ years) was absolutely disgusting.
Dominic Morganti: Shock, and overwhelming sadness. I was convinced it was some kind of joke at first, it didn’t seem real at all. When they confirmed it wasn’t, I was overwhelmed. My entire life was upended with no warning. It was truly awful.
Were either the men’s track or cross country programs given any prior notice that these cuts were coming? If so, what was that conversation like?
Eric: I can’t emphasize enough how blindsided every single person involved with our program was about this news. There was no conversation at all. Once again, the higher ups (straight, white, wealthy males) have made an executive decision on Brown’s behalf with no discourse whatever.
Dominic: No, they were not. We were made aware with an internal email at the same time that the public announcement was launched. There was absolutely no communication.
Brown University noted in their announcement that these changes were not related to the Coronavirus pandemic or the university’s finances. The athletic department is expected to maintain their current operating budget.
Instead, the university has stated that this move is to “improve competitiveness” for the current varsity teams still in place as well as promote “gender equity, diversity and community”.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think these changes will allow current teams to become more competitive or create more equity/diversity?
Martin: The whole premise surrounding this “Excellence” initiative is absurd. Cutting one of your most successful programs in efforts to bolster teams with losing records simply does not make sense. Over the last 10 years, Brown’s Men's Track and Field program has produced multiple Ivy League champions, All-Americans, and Olympians. We regularly compete at the highest level of the NCAA and are competitive against schools throughout the “Power Five” conferences. No other team at Brown can say this.
The diversity and inclusion aspect of this initiative is perhaps the most troubling for me as it goes against everything Brown alleges to value. Brown’s Track and Field Team is consistently one of the most racially and socioeconomically diverse teams on campus. Further puzzling is that Sailing was promoted to Varsity status through this initiative. Admittedly, I do not know much about Sailing, however to make the argument that promoting Sailing and demoting Track and Field was done in the vein of “diversity and inclusion” is simply insulting.
Eric: Funny enough, Brown is cutting the one sport that is the most diverse; both in terms of socioeconomic status, and race. Universities all around the country are cutting numerous sports programs due to COVID-19 complications. It is laughable that Brown chose to hide behind ‘competitiveness’ as the reason for this cut rather than being upfront with their students who consistently fill their pockets with $70k in tuition every year. If Brown cared about competitiveness, they wouldn’t cut the only program to regularly produce All-Americans. Nothing about this is equitable, from a gender, diversity, or community perspective.
Dominic: This is one of the most insulting aspects of their announcement. In regards to diversity, we are one of the most socio-economically diverse teams on campus, with huge representation of POC athletes, members of LGBT community, and a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. To be told we’re being cut for reasons of diversity while teams of old-money sports like sailing of all things are elevated to D1 status is beyond insulting, it flies in the face of basic common sense and reality.
In terms of competitiveness, it also makes no sense. 2 of the 10 male athletic honors seniors, Cameron Daly and Demitri Jackson are track athletes (20% of the recipients), and we compete in high level meets on the same level with much larger schools, as evidenced by our recent top 5 finish at the Northeast regional cross country meet, and numerous national-tier competitors across every event group. For the school to be handing out awards to us for our athletic achievements with one hand while pulling our program out from under us is literally incomprehensible to me.
Brown University announced that these changes were part of the “Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative”. Athletic Director Jack Hayes stated that he was “excited” for how the initiative will serve student-athletes. Have you been surprised by the language surrounding this initiative from the administration?
Martin: Again, the language and programming of this initiative have demonstrated the University’s blatant disregard for its student-athletes. Compounding this is the fact that this decision was made with no prior warning, in the middle of a global pandemic, after the transfer portal had closed*. Students and coaches were completely blind-sided and abandoned. The amount of stress our current and prospective track athletes have expressed is heart-breaking.
Editor's Note: Although the transfer portal does not necessarily close, immediate transfer deadlines for certain schools may have already passed.
Eric: Honestly, absolutely not. As a minority low-income student, I am used to the way Brown hides their true intentions with fancy language and colorful initiatives. In my three years here Brown’s administrators have repeatedly shown me that student interest comes second to their own financial gain. The COVID-19 situation has only exposed pre-existing deep flaws that plague the university I’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears for. If I had to guess, Brown is afraid to look weak. They don’t want the world to know that COVID-19 is affecting them this deeply. Rather, track was the scapegoat for a much bigger issue.
Dominic: I’m surprised by the whole situation given there was no warning, but I’m beyond baffled in the positive language that this whole affair has been couched in. The administration hasn’t expressed a single word of regret to the students who have had their programs demoted and seems to think that we’d be somehow overjoyed for our programs to be cut. We aren’t, and none of their positive language and strange promises about club teams will make us any less hurt, baffled, and angry about this decision.
If possible, could you explain what role (if any) Title IX may have played in the decision to cut the men’s track and cross country programs? Or any other teams?
Martin: The University hasn’t explicitly cited Title IX as a reason for this decision; however, it's clear that Title IX played a major role, as only the men’s team was cut. In my opinion, this type of Title IX maneuvering goes against the spirit of the legislation and will actually serve to disadvantage our women’s team and perpetuate structures of inequality.
Eric: I am not as informed on Title IX as I am with the other aspects of this change. However, it is clearly no coincidence that they chose to only cut Men’s track and field. Cutting Brown Track and XC essential allows them to save costs on three sports, cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track.
Dominic: I’m sure it played a role in their decision. Brown was perfectly Title IX compliant to my knowledge before this restructuring plan was announced, but I’m sure one of the components for this restructuring plan was consideration that Track has a larger number of male athletes, and this plan would necessitate some cuts to men’s programs. That being said, many female athletes on teams like golf, skiing and squash have been affected by this program, and they are likely just as angry as we are.
Based on conversations, the women’s cross country and track teams at Brown (which will remain as varsity sports) have offered overwhelming support for the men’s teams. Can you talk about the dynamic between the men’s and women’s teams at Brown?
Martin: At Brown, we don’t have a men’s and a women’s track team, we have one unified track and field team. We have the same coaches, practices, and meets. The support we’ve received from the women’s arm of the team has been heartening, but not surprising.
Eric: To even consider us a ‘men’s and women’s team’ would be a disservice to the incredible bond and camaraderie both group shares. The dynamic between our team cannot be put into words or summarized. Our women’s team success will greatly suffer because their family has been cut in half and marginalized, regardless of the fact that we are different genders. I don’t think I have ever attended a single practice at Brown University where I wasn’t running, lifting, or stretching side by side with a female athlete. It’s something we pride ourselves on. Coach Springfield has gone out of his way to only hire assistant coaches, rather than a ‘women's head coach’ because we don’t consider ourselves to be having a women’s team or a men’s team, we have one team, and one family.
Dominic: We’re one team, simple as that. The administration seems to think that the men’s and women’s teams are different entities, but from a cultural perspective, that just isn’t true. We’re coached by the same coaches, we practice in the same space, run similar workouts, attend the same team banquets and social gatherings, we do everything as a unit. Many of us even live off-campus right next to each other. There was no question that they were gonna be behind us, because they’re not losing the male equivalent to their team, they’re losing half their teammates. I cannot put into words how appreciative I am for the support they’ve shown us.
Brown will now be the only Ivy League university to not sponsor a men’s track or cross country team. What has the reaction and conversation been like with conference rivals and competitors?
Martin: I have spoken with several former competitors from across the league and all have expressed confusion and disbelief, and have offered their help in any efforts to reverse the decision. Ironically, the league isn’t interested in having a “Heps” with only 7 teams.
Eric: Incredibly supportive. The running community in general is a big family. Everyone wants to sign our petition and is begging us to let them know what more they can do. It is truly sad that all parties involved understand the tragedy of this situation except Brown. Our Ivy League rivals know how hard we work and how much athletics mean to us and the college experience. It’s something they live through everyday. Having a track and field conference championship without Brown’s men team is unfathomable.
Dominic: I have only seen surprise and outrage expressed by our in-conference competitors. Members of multiple teams have reached out to me personally and us as a team expressing their sorrow and outrage on our behalf. We’re competitors on race day, but we’re all doing the same thing, working towards the same goals, and I know I’d support any of them if the situation was reversed.
Any final thoughts or comments?
Martin: Brown’s XC/Track and Field current athletes and alumni have mobilized and remain optimistic that we can have this decision reversed. We’re unified in our shared love, passion, and commitment to Brown XC/Track and Field and are determined to preserve this community for future generations of Brunonians.
Eric: I am incredibly disappointed with the University that I call home. I think the support we’ve received and backlash we’ve gotten speaks for itself. I also want to let Brown know now, if any administrators are reading this, that you have a chance to do the right thing. This PR storm and outpouring of support is only going to get greater. If there’s one thing Brown HAS done right, it’s the incredible alumni network of successful, passionate, and dedicated individuals. This decision will not stand to be permanent, and you can count on that.
Dominic: I’m just so confused by this decision. It’s come at the worst possible time. Everyone is worried about a major health crisis, only to have their lives uprooted by an out-of-nowhere decision by an administration that really doesn’t seem to understand the damage they’re doing. Beyond my personal anger, I feel so awful for the rising freshman that we recruited to our program last fall. This decision has supposedly been in the works for months, but in that time frame, the administration allowed our team to recruit multiple bright, talented athletes who came to Brown with the expectation that they’d get a full, Division 1 Athletic experience.
Since this announcement occurred after these students had already accepted their attendance offer by Brown, they’re now stuck here without the athletic experience they were expecting. The lateness of this announcement and Ivy league rules mean that if anyone on the team who is more serious about their athletics than the administration (club teams are not the same as a D1 program) and wants a full D1 experience and an Ivy league education like they were promised here at Brown will have to wait another year until they can compete after transferring.
This decision effectively ends many careers before they start, and I’m left to choose between competing elsewhere my senior year and not receiving the Ivy League education I invested 3 years of my life in or abandoning the sport and competition that I believe defines me as a person.
It’s a horrible situation for myself and for so many others.
To support the men's XC and track teams at Brown University,
you can sign their petition which can be found here.