Proration hits close to home
There's a saying that bad news travels fast, and that's especially true in this era thanks to the technology that's literally at our fingertips.
Last week I emailed my former college soccer coach to confirm a planned alumni game and cookout at the conclusion of spring practice. When I checked my email to see if she had responded, I was surprised that her reply had nothing to with the game. Instead, it was a brief message to people who are connected in various ways to the program that soccer had been dropped at Shelton State, a sprawling community college located a few miles south of Tuscaloosa and a place where I spent two challenging and wonderful years.
I was saddened but not necessarily shocked by the news because of the budget shortages currently facing both K-12 and postsecondary schools in Alabama. With proration hanging over the state, school administrators have no choice but to cut back, and extracurricular activities and sports programs are certainly not as vital as teachers, textbooks and academic programs.
That being said, I can understand why many of my former teammates are upset that Shelton State – one of only two junior colleges in the state to field a soccer team and the only one with a girls program – decided to cut soccer, which the school says costs $100,000 annually. That's because the powers-that-be have spared the other varsity sports, including men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball and cheerleading.
Soccer requires at least an 11-player roster, while basketball only needs a minimum of five players, so the money difference is obvious there. And if you're going to retain the basketball teams, which have been highly successful on a consistent basis at Shelton, then you should probably keep the cheerleading squad, too.
But I'm not sure why soccer, which also consistently made the playoffs, was considered more expendable than baseball and softball, other than those two sports are just more traditional and have been at the school longer than the soccer program, which was started in 1997 by Arthur Howington.
In her email, my coach, who has won more than 100 games in only eight seasons at Shelton, said the economy played a major role in the school's decision. The athletic director, who is also the men's basketball coach, told The Tuscaloosa News that it was "an economic-type decision."
Instead of complaining about losing her coaching job and the athletic department's unfortunate choice, she focused on the people who have been involved with the program and called it a blessing, and I agree whole-heartedly with that description.
One of my former teammates, who ended up marrying our team manager a couple of years ago, has suggested that the alumni protest the decision and circulate a petition, but I don't think it could save the program.
So we have agreed it is better to focus on something positive, which would be what our coach would want, anyway. So here's hoping the alumni game will still be played, and that we can use it as a fitting send-off for the program to celebrate all the good times we experienced together.