The Collegian
Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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Varsity athletic roster spots left unaccounted for

Sixty-four roster spots opened after the dismissal of the men's soccer and indoor and outdoor track and field teams last fall. The men's club lacrosse team, which will replace these teams when it becomes a Division I sport next fall, has a current roster of 35 players.

When asked where the extra roster spots left vacant by the three discontinued sports teams went, athletic director Keith Gill said that he could not pinpoint where the additional spots had been allocated after the reconfiguration.

"It really is a department-wide thing," Gill said. "We work on looking at everything at the same time." It would be difficult to understand the whole system and strongly specify exact roster numbers because the makeup of university sports teams is a fluid process, he said.

In a follow-up email, Gill said that the football roster size had not changed as a result of the sport-mix process. This came in response to community concern after an announcement by head football coach Danny Rocco that he hoped to bolster his roster size from 83 to 90 players.

Each year, the university athletic department decides the number of student-athletes that football and all other sports teams are allowed to have on team rosters, Rocco said.

"Football has been operating under the number that we're allowed to have," he said. "I have been working with the understanding that since I've been here that I can have a roster size of 90." Rocco joined the Richmond football department in Dec. 2011. Injury rates and the small size of the student body were hurdles that held the football program back from reaching it's target number in the past, he said.

In an attempt to bolster his roster, Rocco has made a strong attempt to increase his walk-on program, in addition to normal recruiting, he said.

Just as Rocco worked with a guideline of 90 roster spots, Stephen Taylor, head coach of men's cross country and track and field, was given a roster maximum of 50 spots to split among his three teams, he said. The NCAA has treated men's cross country, men's indoor track and field and men's outdoor track and field as separate sports, Taylor said.

The 26 roster spots from the men's soccer team and the 38 roster spots from men's indoor and outdoor track and field teams, excluding 12 spots from the total 50 for the remaining instated men's cross country roster, totaled to 64 open student-athlete roster positions.

Gill said he could not state a specific target roster number for the new men's lacrosse team because numbers weren't always set.

"There isn't something really specific because we're always working on this trying to optimize what our roster is relevant to what our sports program is" he said. Taylor said that his team had worked with the same roster maximum for the past 12 years.

Jim Miller, the former athletic director and newly appointed special assistant to the president for athletic advancement, said that the lacrosse team would take about 42 roster spots, according to an article by David Larter of the Richmond BizSense. This has left 22 student-athlete roster spots unaccounted for, especially with the confirmation from Gill that no roster spots were allocated to football because of the sports reconfiguration.

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Matt Groff, a sophomore track & field runner, said that one of the track runners' initial questions was why outdoor track was cut when the roster spots from soccer and indoor track could cover the necessary room for a lacrosse team.

Kyle Ragan, a senior track & field runner said that when this issue was brought up to President Ed Ayers and the athletic department, they said that these unassigned roster spots wouldn't be used for track even though they had no assigned teams for these spots.

"An extra couple of spots is not going to drastically change the competitiveness of the football or basketball team," Ragan said. "But these spots would allow us to have a track program and could mean the difference between having a cross country program that is competing for top 25 appearances in the NCAA and one that is struggling for relevancy."

Gill said that he understood why people might have been confused, but that he thought trying to calculate roster numbers based on track and soccer was difficult because it didn't take into account everything that the athletic department considered from a standpoint of looking out for all of the sports teams.

The process is complex and complicated, he said, and he would not be able to offer a specific answer to this fluid roster numbering matchup. "We are being good stewards of the resources in terms of how those are being allocated," Gill said. "We're managing it the way the president and everybody else thought we would."

"There isn't something really specific because we're always working on this trying to optimize what our roster is relevant to what our sports program is" he said.

Taylor said that his team had worked with the same roster maximum for the past 12 years.

Contact reporter Kylie McKenna at kylie.mckenna@richmond.edu

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