President Ayers,

For the past two weeks, I’ve found myself waking up at about 5 am every morning and narrating letters to you in my head while lying in bed. The topics vary from day to day –

Ethics – how the University can contemplate a landscape changing decision like eliminating the Men’s Soccer and Track teams while never disclosing that possibility to the student body and an alumni steering committee that had been seemingly working with the Athletic Department and Development Office for nearly 2 years,

Transparency – how an Athletics Strategic plan was formulated without key stakeholder input and why it cannot be shared in its entirety with the University community,

Special-interest – how sacrificing the good of the many for the desires of the few could be seen as the right thing to do when in reality it only serves to weaken a far reaching foundation of trust that has taken generations to build, and

Leadership – how a man who has built a personal brand of credibility over many years could sacrifice it all by not being able to take direction from his most important constituents.

I’ve read most everything there is to read on this topic-at least the information available for public consumption. I initially believed the University’s strategy to lay this decision at the feet of the impersonal, faceless Board of Trustees was brilliant; no need to put you or the Athletic Director in the line of fire. Since the University community hadn’t heard from you in the first week, I held in my heart that the man I’ve broken bread with on numerous occasions over the past 5 years and grew to admire as a man of strong moral character wasn’t part of this. However, based on your comments Sunday night, I’ve come to realize that I was wrong. Nonetheless, I still have faith that someone who prides himself as being “in-touch” with his students, faculty, and alumni will eventually see the light.

Like many in the University community, I’m still searching for the reason why the University would voluntarily disenfranchise thousands of constituents and throw away decades of goodwill. It is easy for those of us who have engaged in strategic planning discussions and development meetings with any variety of University personnel to recognize the reasoning you, the Athletic Department, and the Board of Trustees have provided is contrived. While you and the others suggest that this issue was evaluated from every angle, it clearly missed the most important one – public opinion. It is not a talent to take “research” and spin it into an argument to justify a self-serving decision. Companies mistakenly go-to-market everyday with products and services that somebody behind the scenes thought was brilliant and was supported by all the data they had at their disposal. But GREAT companies don’t prolong a bad decision by continuing to tell the customer they know their wants and needs better than themselves. They LISTEN to the customer, they change the decision, and they pull the product. These are often the most courageous decisions leaders need to make.

I’ve served on Richmond’s Alumni Recruitment Committee for over 10 years. The quality of the students I’ve interviewed during that time has consistently improved year-over-year. These students are coming from the best schools Atlanta has to offer – The Lovett School, Pace Academy, Marist, and many others. I’m also privileged to receive a summary of the admissions results every year and those statistics further prove that the quantity and quality of our applicants are improving as well. To suggest that adding lacrosse at the expense of Soccer and Track will open a pipeline to key high schools is illogical and insulting. What are you saying about our current student body and the schools we draw from today? Are they somehow inferior because they aren’t lacrosse factories?

You also commented that Richmond’s student-athletes as a percentage of the student body is one of the highest in the country. So what? Please explain to me, a former academic, all-conference member of the men’s soccer team, why this is bad. I attribute most everything I’ve accomplished in my professional career to my experience on the University of Richmond Men’s Soccer Team. The ability to perform in the classroom and on the field is a unique and special gift. The experiences of being part of a team, continuously investing in practice and preparation, dealing with adversity, recovering from disappointment, and simply competing day-in and day-out are attributes that every employer in the world looks for. I find it hard to believe that producing more of these individuals would be a negative for the University. The decision to eliminate the two highest GPA sports on campus clearly puts the emphasis on the wrong part of the “student-athlete” designation. Are you not trying to produce the best students? Are you not interested in developing real-world skills employers want?

We have a saying in my company “kill the snake”. It derives from Ross Perot’s famous quote “if you see a snake, kill it; don’t form a committee on snakes.” It simply means that when you see something that is so obviously broken, you fix it, you don’t continue to pretend it isn’t there. Well, there is a snake at the University of Richmond. Your students see it. Your faculty sees it. Your alumni see it. The Richmond community sees it. And a growing part of the country sees it. I’m pretty sure you see it. It’s time to kill the snake and reinstate the Men’s Soccer and Track teams.

Ritt Carrano
Men’s Soccer ’87 – ‘90

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