The Collegian
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Student-athletes upset over fund allocations

Some student-athletes believe that the $15 million designated to renovate the Robins Center should be dispersed throughout the athletic department rather than focusing specifically on improving the existing basketball and football facilities, said Matt Zink, center fielder for the Spiders baseball team.

Zink understands that basketball is a revenue-generating sport, he said, but he would like to see more equal distribution of funds set aside for renovating athletic facilities. Other teams, such as baseball and swimming, also deserve updated facilities and more funds for equipment, he said.

Performance should be a major determining factor in distributing athletic funds, Zink said. The Spiders baseball team has participated in back-to-back conference championship games, yet has to budget its number of baseballs each season, while watching other athletic teams receive upgrades, Zink said.

The swim team has won 11 conference championships in 12 years, yet its members practice and compete in the same pool as general students, he said.

Senior Mina Vucic, a captain of the swim team, thinks the renovations to the Robins Center will be great, she said.

Vucic also said she wished that more attention would be focused on the pool.

The swim team has been very successful in its current pool, but she believes it could improve if more resources were devoted to enhancing training, she said.

The swimmers currently practice in a 25-yard pool with six lanes, Vucic said. Training would be much more beneficial in a 50-meter pool, Vucic said, which could easily be constrained to competition size for meets.

The Weinstein Center does not currently have space for a 50-meter pool, head swim coach Matt Barany said. A pool of this size would stretch beyond the current floor plan, he said, but the footprint does exist. A 50-meter pool would enhance recruiting opportunities and benefit more people than the varsity team members, Barany said.

The swim team would like more seating availability as well, Vucic said. Audience members are often required to watch through the window on the second floor of the gym because seating by the pool is limited, she said.

Vucic believes the distribution of the athletic department's funds should be based on several factors, including team performance, academic success and how well the team represents the university, she said.

Freshman field hockey player Avery Safford supports the renovations of the Robins Center because basketball brings the university large profits and audiences, she said. The field hockey field was recently renovated, and Safford is pleased with its condition, she said.

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If the athletic department was not undergoing any facility upgrades, this would have been a less sensitive topic of conversation, Zink said.

"I know that so many factors go into these decisions," Zink said, "but it feels like a slap in the face. Athletes like to know their time, efforts and successes are valued by the athletic department and university as a whole."

During his five years on the baseball team, Zink, a senior completing his fifth year at Richmond, does not remember any renovations for the team's facilities, he said. He said he recalled two additions, which had been a plasma TV purchased by one of the former coaches and a stereo system purchased by Zink for the locker room.

Members of the baseball team would like locker rooms positioned near Pitt Field and plane tickets to far away games, Zink said. The team drove about nine-and-a-half hours to Jacksonville, Fla., for three games during the weekend of Feb. 22, he said.

The baseball team is not looking to see mass-reconstruction to its facilities, Zink said. Players would like to see moderate changes in small stages, he said, based on a more equal distribution of the athletic department's budget.

Zink's ideal vision of college baseball is playing Friday night games, he said. This is an opportunity that Richmond players don't have because of funding and community members' hesitations with the addition of lights, he said.

The baseball team would attract more fans if night games were possible, he said. Lights would also allow more flexibility for players to schedule classes, Zink said.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, about half of the team misses portions of practice, which occurs from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., Zink said. Many of his teammates can't avoid scheduling class during this time, and lights would allow more flexibility for practice time, he said.

Zink greatly appreciates the scholarship and opportunities that the university and athletic department have provided him with, he said. However, he is reminded daily of the unequal treatment among sports teams.

Athletic Director Keith Gill did not respond to phone calls or emails regarding this story.

Contact staff writer Megan Haggerty at megan.haggerty@richmond.edu

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