The Collegian
Sunday, May 28, 2023

Soccer alumni will fight on following press conference

The press conference hosted by University of Richmond soccer alumni on Friday presented a question of right and wrong, said men's soccer coach Leigh Cowlishaw.

Maybe the answer will not be reinstating soccer and track, but the decision certainly needs to be scrutinized with all the facts presented, he said.

Soccer alumnus Scott Byrnes, '91, led off his speech by acknowledging that people might have seen the amount of work that has gone into fighting the decision to cut the men's soccer and men's track and field teams as overkill. He said that this was not a typical decision.

He went on to list six steps for establishing a men's varsity lacrosse program: establish an inner circle, call for a study, stack the deck, massage the data, hide the ball and seal out the competition. The steps were supported by details as to who was on committees relevant to the decisions, quotes from university president Edward Ayers and statements that were made to soccer alumni concerning the future of the program.

Repeated references were made to the comments of Tom Gutenberger, Richmond's vice president of advancement, who told soccer alumni that the program was not in danger of being cut, after Gutenberger had attended an April 2012 Board of Trustees meeting in which the decision to cut the two sports programs had been made.

The information provided in the speech can be found under the tab "Web of Deceit" on the website created by soccer alumni,

Sophomore Andrew Valenski, a member of the men's track team who attended the press conference, said it was comforting to know that the facts were actually coming out, but at the same time, the implications were alarming.

The meeting centered on the soccer team, but the story represented both teams, he said.

Byrnes said he had hoped that the press conference wouldn't have to be held and that the teams would have been reinstated by the Board of Trustees at a meeting held Thursday.

Before Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, soccer alumni had emailed what Byrnes called a "teaser" portion of Friday's speech to the Board of Trustees members. The next step will be to email the full speech to the members, he said.

Byrnes also urged alumni to stop donations to the university until the decision to cut the teams was revoked.

"We're not going to stop," he said. "We've come this far ... it's a great cause, and we're going to keep the pressure on."

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