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Valparaiso Alumni Perplexed by Decision to Cut Soccer

Brock Fritz

A group of Valparaiso University men’s soccer alumni is putting up a fight after the school’s decision to discontinue the program.

More than 100 alumni signed an open letter – addressed to the university’s board of directors, President Mark A. Heckler, and Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera – asking school officials to reconsider cutting the program and requesting a meeting with full transparency.

The three-page letter said that alumni are “perplexed and disappointed with the decision,” citing that 36 years of Valparaiso varsity men’s soccer has resulted in an invested alumni base that has supported the athletic department’s mission of “creating champions in competition, the classroom, and the community.”

The letter laid out its case for continuing the program, starting with the program’s six winning seasons in the last 10 years, which included winning the 2011 Horizon League Championship.

The letter also stated that the program has won an NSCAA/USC Team Academic Award in 17 straight years, while the men’s soccer team started the #oneVALPO movement that promotes diversity across campus.

“The choice to abandon this team is dismissive of the impact this program has had on the university, the community, the coaching staff and the brothers on the field who have proudly worn the Brown and Gold for decades,” the letter reads. “We see your decision as being short-sighted and fear that cutting short the potential of this program is to take away from the reach this team could continue to have both on and off the field for years to come.”

The decision to cut the men’s soccer program was announced Nov. 20, a week after the Crusaders wrapped up a 4-13-1 season with a double-overtime loss to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The university also announced that the men’s tennis program will be cut after the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season in the spring.

“The Athletics Oversight Committee of the Board of Directors conducted an extensive review of the Athletics Department that began in 2017,” the university said of the decision to discontinue the programs. “One of the conclusions of the review was that the University would be best served with an athletics program whose size was more in-line with those of the University’s Missouri Valley Conference colleagues and peers. With 21 Division I teams, Valpo had the most athletic programs of any school in the Missouri Valley Conference and more than the majority of its Division I national peer institutions. The decision will allow the University to better focus on providing the best possible experience for all student-athletes while providing the best opportunity for competing successfully within the Missouri Valley Conference and the Department’s single sport conferences.”

Men’s soccer and tennis players will remain on scholarship if they stay enrolled at Valparaiso, while the school intends to assists with potential transfers.

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