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With teams safe from cuts, ball in boosters' court


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It came as a shock to some and a relief to others.

UNC Wilmington Chancellor Gary Miller announced this morning he would not cut teams from the school athletic department.

Miller's announcement got a standing ovation from seahawk athletes, but that announcement was also a call to action to the university and the community.

"Division I intercollegiate athletics is an essential part of this university and a critical avenue by which we build partnerships in this community," Miller said.

A community he hopes will better support the school's sports teams. By deciding not to cut five programs as recommended by a committee that examined the athletic department, Miller put the ball firmly back in the court of the donors. Now the Seahawk Club is asking its members to step to the plate and deliver the funds needed to get the athletic department soaring to new heights.

"Money makes the world go round," Seahawk Club Executive Director Rob Aycock said. "Whether that's fortunate or unfortunate, that's the reality of the situation. We need to continue to bring in more and more funds to be competitive nationally and to raise the profile of not only the athletics here, but also the university."

Former UNCW swimmer Dan Gallagher says he has been contributing to the school's bottom line since graduating in 2002. He feels more alumni would take the dive if donors had greater control of where their money went.

"We hope to see things like sport-specific giving come back to the athletic department, so that the alumni of the non-revenue sports can give specifically to a certain cause," Gallagher said.

The group Save UNCW Swimming & Diving raised $1,000 since it formed last week following the committee's recommendation to cut men's and women's swimming and diving, men's cross country, men's indoor track and softball. Members will donate the money they raise to Chancellor Miller and the Seahawk Club at a ceremony tomorrow morning.

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I went to college for an education and I participated in intermural sports. Athletic scholarships did not deny me an education. As long as they are paid for out of athletic budgets and in no way affect the tuition I pay for an education then I have no concerns. But, as soon as I have to pay more tuition to support the Athletic Program then I am against their existence. College is higher learning, not higher athletics!