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Former CMU men’s track athletes still fighting to bring the program back and they say research is on their side

“The figures and numbers they’re talking about are just not accurate. I was there for 24 years, they’re not spending that kind of money on track and field.”
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 12:02 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Over a year ago, CMU decided to cut their Men’s track program which caused a huge ripple effect for the former Chippewas athletes and forced many to make tough decisions.

“I had a lot of anxiety because I had to decide whether I wanted to stay or keep running track somewhere,” said former CMU track and field athlete Dante Lander.

Lander decided to continue his track career at Eastern Michigan University, while his teammate Roshawn Morton went a different route.

Morton explains, “It was dream to run in college and once that was over it was like ‘Hey dream fulfilled.’”

Morton choose to stay at the university and finish his bachelor’s degree.

Although both athletes landed on their feet, a former Chippewas thrower wishes they never had to make those decisions.

“It’s kind of crushing. You just stripped a university of a small population,” said Kevin Mays.

Mays is the owner of the Flint United pro basketball team and Flint native cites his time in Mt. Pleasant for his success.

He believes the departure of the program will have an even bigger effect on the sport as a whole in Mid-Michigan.

Mays explained, “You have so many athlete’s get displaced, not just here it’s happening around the country. And it’s like if you can’t participate in track and field in college than why do it in high school.”

CMU was one of 29 D-1 schools to cancel a sport in 2020, and the school said it was because of “budget cuts” due to the COVID pandemic.

Former Chippewas track and field coach Jim Knapp said, “The figures and numbers they’re talking about are just not accurate. I was there for 24 years, they’re not spending that kind of money on track and field.”

CMU said in 2019 their total operating expense for track and field was about $750,000.

Andy Schwarz, Chief Innovation Officer at the Professional Collegiate League, did his own assessment of CMU’s men’s track and field accounting. He through his finding, he said the university’s total operating cost was closer to $700,00 and they actually could have profited over $90,000.

“If you have 36 players on a team and 12.5 are allowed scholarships that’s about 23.5 paying customers that the university,” said Ted Rockett former CMU track and field athlete and board member for The Committee to Reinstate Track and Field at CMU.

Rockett believes the university is also taking away opportunities from black students and track athletes.

“For the past 10 years in NCAA sports black athletes are most represented in football, basketball and track on average that is 3,000 black track athletes. By eliminating the program and the division one level you’re eliminating those opportunities. It’s just the bottom line,” said Rockett.

For the last year Rockett and the Reinstate track and field group have been presenting their case to CMU.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) even wrote a letter to President Robert Daves to help bring the program back.

When I asked CMU if they’ll bring the program back or replace it, they told me they’re in a “holding pattern” and are waiting for further information on what will happen next.

In order to keep their Division One status, CMU must add another men’s sports to replace track and field, the school has two-year waiver from the NCAA to remain eligible.

Lander said, “I support them coming back because the more men’s track teams there are the better. It gives people more opportunities to do what they like.”

“Just think about all the people that you could be helping. Even if they only come here for a year at least they’ll be able to say I was able to go be a collegiate athlete and learn what that type of life-style is like,” said Morton.

Whether they bring the program or not, the effect it has on its participants is priceless.

Stay with ABC12 for updates as the University tries to figure out how to maintain its division one status.

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