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JV Teams Fear Program Cuts

Athletes say Athletic Department reps push switch to club sports

Harvard junior varsity teams are protesting what they say is an attempt by the Athletic Department to pressure them into reorganizing as club sports.

Over the past several weeks, the department has spoken with teams about the possibility of giving up their JV status, according to student athletes.

Athletic Department officials said the meetings are meant to spark a discussion about potential alternatives for JV teams that have struggled to maintain steady numbers and meet obligations for practice and competitions. But athletes on JV teams say the department is pressuring them into forfeiting the financial benefits and legitimacy that come with JV status.

“It made it seem as though we weren’t putting in the time commitment necessary to make it worth their while to finance and organize us,” JV women’s soccer player Jessica C. Frisina ’10 said of a Sept. 24 meeting with an Athletics Department representative.

Approved club teams receive only minimal funding—between $500 and $1000 per season—and are responsible for the purchase of their own playing equipment and uniforms, travel costs associated with road contests, and the hiring of coaches. By contrast, JV teams receive more funding and are not expected to front any of those costs.

Club team players also avoid a number of tasks typically faced by JV athletes. Their practice schedules are lighter and more flexible, and they are not required to acquire National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Clearinghouse certification, or comply with the regular drug tests required to maintain NCAA eligibility.

A spokesman for the Athletics Department, Kurt K. Svoboda, said that the department is attempting to “impress upon the student-athletes that we don’t want to take away, but rather put onto the table, alternative models that could better meet their needs and interests.”

“We want to see if a different model that better suits the needs of our student body is something that we can offer,” Svoboda wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Svoboda added that junior varsity programs have already been reduced across the board at other colleges, and that a majority of Harvard’s junior varsity games are played against club and high school teams.

Jacob E. Segal ’09, a member of the varsity men’s Alpine Skiing team who attended a JV soccer meeting, said that the team is considering a switch to club status after the fall season in light of a meeting with an Athletic Department representative. He said poor scheduling—the team is slated to play just four games this season—and a lack of communication between players and coaches is also factoring into the team’s decision.

Segal said that while he was concerned about the department’s approach, he understood the potential merits of such a move.

Surviving as a club sport often comes with financial difficulty. The yearly costs of Harvard’s Rugby Club, for instance, hover in the range of $60,000, according to the group’s president, Callum L. King ’08.

“It’s difficult to run our club on the amount of money we receive from the University,” King said, adding that the team has had to rely on fund raising, Undergraduate Council grants, and personal out-of-pocket contributions to cover expenses.

According to Frisina and Richard G. Menchaca ’10, the Athletic Department did offer to provide some additional financial help if the soccer teams moved from junior varsity to club status, but students were still skeptical.

“Not that being a club team didn’t make sense to us, but making the transition is very difficult,” Frisina said. “It didn’t seem like there was a system set up to take the team from JV to club.”

Menchaca said that he has resigned himself to a future without a JV soccer program.

“What other alternative do we have?” Mechaca said. “[What alternative] does anyone have when faced with those kinds of conditions?”

“The fact that it seems they were trying to go behind our backs—it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Menchaca said.

—Staff writer Nicholas A. Ciani can be reached at nciani@fas.harvard.edu.
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