President Ayers and Mr. Miller:

No company ever downsized its way to greatness.  While this quote originated in the context of corporate restructurings in the 1990’s, I firmly believe that it is applicable to higher education and intercollegiate athletics.  I write today to add my name to the list of alumni, parents and current student-athletes voicing displeasure with Friday’s announcement regarding the soccer and track & field teams. 

Before I criticize the decision, I should begin by praising the work of Steve and Lori Taylor.  Since their arrival, the cross country and track & field teams have been on a steady upward trajectory.  Their tireless devotion to the young men and women of the University of Richmond represent what’s best about intercollegiate athletics.  Their passion and commitment to excellence are reflected in the outstanding conference, national and international results achieved by the teams in recent years.  The remarkable student-athletes they recruit serve as wonderful ambassadors for the athletic department and the university as a whole.  The university is incredibly fortunate to have had them as coaches. 

During the past year I have had the pleasure of attending University of Richmond football, baseball, basketball and soccer games and a track & field meet with my two young sons.  Now, when we play in the back yard I’ll have to inform them that their dreams of becoming the next Kevin Anderson or Mike Mergenthaler will have to suffice, as their dreams of becoming the next Andrew Benford, Matt Llano or Ben Brewster were unceremoniously put to rest on Friday.  In addition to working on their jump shots and pitching mechanics, we’ll also have to spend time each afternoon learning and discussing terms like “existing resources,” “endowment funded by multiple donors,”[i] “reconfiguration,”[ii] “strategic plan” and “board of trustees.”  So much for the simplicity of youth and sport.         

Some may find a way to fashion a defense of the substance of the recent decision using tortured logic and selective statistics.  However, I can’t imagine anyone coming to the defense of the callous timing of Friday’s announcement.  I recognize there is never a good time to deliver bad news, but telling young men in the middle of a season (and on a game day for the soccer team) that the sports they have devoted themselves to are no longer needed because a few people wrote large checks to the university is particularly heartless. 

Sparing the cross country team the chopping block was perhaps the most curious part of the decision.  Would you have considered eliminating the swimming team in all strokes except for butterfly?  (I realize that is a poor example since the men’s swimming team was cut years ago.)  Instead, would you have considered telling the tennis team they would no longer be needed for singles competition but they would be expected to continue to show up and represent the university in doubles play?  

To recap, the University of Richmond “Athletic” Department no longer fields men’s teams in either (a) the most popular sport in the world (soccer)[iii] or (b) the sport the Olympic Games refer to simply as Athletics (track and field)[iv].  Instead, we’ve jettisoned years of proud history in both sports for a niche, regional sport that isn’t recognized by the Atlantic 10 conference.  I hope history proves me wrong, but I think you’ll find that Friday was your “transforming mush into mush” moment.[v]   


Andrew J. Blanchard

Class of 1997, Robins School of Business, Men’s Cross Country and Track & Field

Class of 2002, School of Law






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