UNCW dropping men’s indoor track & field, but not really?

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Less than a year after UNCW Chancellor Gary Miller announced the school would not cut any of its athletics programs, the university has announced it will cut one team for next year. But in the end, it looks as if not much is changing.

Miller today announced via an e-mail to students and staff UNCW will drop men’s indoor track & field at the start of the next school year this fall. Miller says the move has been made to help the school comply with Title IX, which governs gender equity in sports. The federal rule requires schools to have athletic opportunities for men and women that are proportionate to undergraduate enrollment. Miller says the school’s enrollment is 60 percent female and 40 percent male.

“It is always difficult to make these kinds of decisions, knowing of their potential impact on student-athletes and coaches,” Miller said in his e-mail. “Fortunately in this case, the student-athletes involved were recruited to participate in outdoor track & field and will continue to do so. There is no impact on student-athlete scholarships, and they will continue to enjoy the same access to academic support, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, and other available resources.”

But Head Coach Jim Sprecher tells WWAY very little is actually changing. Sprecher says the men’s track program will continue to compete in the same number of indoor competitions each year and maintain the same budget. He said the only thing changing is the loss of 12 winter practices for the team.

When asked about the specifics of the announced cut and any confusion, the university’s communications staff referred all inquiries to athletics department spokesman Joe Browning.

“As Chancellor Miller indicated, we are discontinuing men’s indoor track and field,” Browning said in an e-mail to WWAY. “Some of the outdoor (track & field) athletes may still attend a few meets next winter as individuals (they usually compete in 3-4 as a team). This adjustment in our portfolio will help us realign our number of male participants to the current and future enrollment ratio, per one of the prongs of Title IX, a federal law.”

UNCW director of athletics Jimmy Bass clarified the confusion with WWAY on Monday night. Bass said the UNCW athletes that compete in men’s indoor track starting next year will compete as individuals. He stressed they won’t be competing as a team for the university.

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