Editor’s Note: Below is the main story and there are several elements that are attached to this final project. 1. Our blog can be found at: http://j203xc.posterous.com/ 2. A video which can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW2PuUrP39o 3. Jack Cook, A legend lost in time 4. Campus Chat
A forgotten pastime faces legislation, administration By, Jaclyn Coleman, Alyssa Jenkins, Amanda Shepherd, Devin Sizemore, Kyle Straw A look 15 years into the past at the University of Nevada, Reno uncovers the dismantling of a legacy. In the spring of 1994 the men’s cross country and track and field programs at UNR were dismantled, meaning the end of a university tradition. “The simplest and the best way to explain the cutting of the program is that it was due to Title IX,” said Curt Kraft, track and field and cross country assistant coach at UNR from 1991-94, during a recent interview. Title IX, which is a federal law that was implemented in 1972, promotes equal opportunity for men and women athletes. “Title IX is a law saying women can equally compete with men’s sports,” said Eric Herzik, chair of UNR’s political science department. “Title IX provides equal access to women and it’s completely fair.” Although Title IX promotes equality in sports, it also has taken its toll on smaller men’s sports at the collegiate level. “The University of Nevada was not the only school in the nation having to cut back. We were victims like many other schools and sports across the nation. It was just a decision that had to be made,” said Kraft. Knowing that the program was going to be cut didn’t stop the 1994 men’s track and field team from finishing the season off strong. “We knew in March that the sport was going to be cut,” Kraft said. “The team still competed and went on to be the runner-up in the Big West Championship.” Although Title IX was the main factor in cutting the men’s program, there were many other factors, such as the number of athletes on the team and the money involved with the sport. “One thing about cross country is that it is a high numbers thing, and it doesn’t bring in any revenue,” Kraft said. He also noted that other sports – such as
tennis and golf - don’t bring in revenue. “The program was dropped after I resigned. You would have to ask Chris Ault, who was the athletic director at the time,” said Roger Bowen, head coach for track and field and cross country at UNR from 1989-94, in a recent interview. Chris Ault was unavailable to comment due to his duties as head coach of the University of Nevada’s football team. “I’ve talked to Coach Ault about it and I don’t think he intended to murder the sport,” said John Trent, who was working as a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal at the time. “He was told by the federal government that he needed to meet a specific federal mandate and he felt that the best way to do it was eliminate the 20 scholarships associated with men’s track and cross country.” According to most of those interviewed for this story, coaches, athletes, fans and the community were not satisfied with the decision to cut the program. There are a multitude of reasons why the sport should still be part of the university. “Some of the former athletes and myself went about getting signatures to support the program and if I can remember we had well over 25,000 signatures,” said Domingo Tibaduiza, who ran for UNR from 1972-76 and also a four-time Olympic runner for his native Colombia, in a recent interview. “We were hoping that whoever had power was going to listen to us, but once the athletic director made his mind up there was nothing we could do. We offered to coach with no salaries and we knew that we could get the community to support the program.” A lost legacy When the cross country and track and field programs were cut it was the end of a winning tradition at UNR. “We dominated,” said Dave Marson, who ran for UNR from 1980-81. “We would go down to California to compete and put five runners in the top eight or nine, at the least. Anywhere we went we were dominant.” Not only did the program have a winning tradition, it was a well-known sport on and off campus. When asked about the magnitude of the cross country program Tibaduiza said, “Very big, very big. At the time we were one of the top teams in the country.” The combination of the program’s winning history, along with the recognition it received as one of the top programs in the country, created a winners mentality among the teammates.
“When it came to cross country we know we were one of the best in the United States,” said Tom Wysocki, who ran for UNR from 1974-78. Despite the teams continued success there were other factors that attributed to the team becoming not only a university team, but also a community team. “We tried to finish the meets at half time at the football games,” Wysocki said. “All of a sudden people who didn’t know we had a cross country team let alone one that was nationally ranked got to know who we were.” Still on people’s minds Having a strong men’s team gives more of an advantage to our women athletes, because it helps to motivate them and increases the will to win. “We wish we had a men’s team so much,” said Natalia Jarawka, a senior runner at UNR. “When we are at a competition we can’t cheer for the guys races because we don’t have anyone to cheer for.” Nevada is known for strong distance runners due to the altitude and beautiful terrain. However, due to Title IX, local male runners are forced to pay out of state tuition or fight for a full-ride scholarship. “Every time we go and watch high school cross country meets, so many parents come up to my coach and tell him their sons want to go to Nevada, but can’t since there is no men’s team,” Jarawka said. Reasons to have a men’s program in Nevada UNR is not only an attraction for local students, but out-of-state students as well. With our university not offering some sports programs, students have become more aware of what programs they can find at UNR, as well as the programs that are nonexistent. “I have two more years to figure it out but I would like to live closer to my brother and the business school is really great at UNR,” said Peter Hombolt, sophomore cross country runner at Eastside Catholic in Newcastle, Wash. “But I just wouldn't be able to run and without running I wouldn't have a life. I might have to find somewhere else to go to college, but I would like to see things change in the near future.” Not having a men’s team at the university forces local coaches to send their best athletes to other states to further their running career. “I would be sending kids to the University of Nevada for cross country. I have guys right now that I am sending to southern California instead of the University of Nevada
because there is no program,” said Dave Marson, cross country coach for Sierra Lutheran High School in Minden, Nev. While runners have the ability to participate in an intramural league, it just does not have the same feeling as being an athlete who is on a team that is officially recognized by the university. “There is an intramural team at UNR already, so all the guys that I know are already on that team,” said Aaron Bedetti, a junior at UNR. “It just sucks because the people who want to transfer from high schools that want to run for UNR can't. Since there is no actual men’s team people on the intramural team never get any recognition.” Not having a men’s team makes life harder for those students who were born and raised as runners in the state of Nevada. “The fact that there is no men’s program is an absolute travesty. In the state of Nevada if you are a male and you want to specialize in men’s cross country there is not a program to go to so you have to pay out of state tuition and you then have to compete to get into a California school, which is a lot harder to get into to,” Wysocki said. Benefits to having both programs When asked about the benefits of having both a men and women’s program Kraft stated, “It’s absolutely marvelous. I could go on for several hours explaining the benefits of having both programs. One goes with the other like peanut butter goes with jelly. When you have both programs they feed off of each other. The recruiting is also easier when you have both programs.” Having a strong men’s team gives more of an advantage to our women athletes, because it helps to motivate the women’s team. “There are many benefits from having a men’s team,” Jarawka said. “One is that guys run faster than girls and every time we would run with them we would get better because sometimes you just get into the pattern when you run with the girls and no one wants to run faster. Guys give you a mental break, they give you the opportunity to talk about something else.” Unlike other male and female sports, cross country is more united. “The women’s basketball team doesn’t travel with the men’s basketball team, but with track and field and cross country you go to a meet and the men run the 100 meter and then the women run the 100 meter, it is a family type thing,” Kraft said. Why Nevada Cross Country? To be a runner in Nevada is an amazing thing, you can experience a world of running
in an environment that is second to none. Nevada provides runners with a multitude of benefits from altitude, to scenic running trails, to decent training weather year round. “The number one reason why Reno and northern Nevada is such a great location is because of the terrain we live in,” Kraft said. “It is called elevation, elevation, elevation. It is a Mecca for training for cross country because runners like to train at altitude and then run at sea level.” As with any college sport, the travel distance to competition is very important. The shorter that teams have to travel, the less they have to pay. “Reno is located very close to some of the best running events on the west coast,” Tibaduiza said. “Reno used to be a running community.” Nevada was once known for men’s cross country running, but is the poor stepchild to football and basketball. “We know that once a program is cut at the university it is hard to bring the program back. I hope that before I die the program will be restarted, because it is such a waste because we have so much talent in Nevada, but we are losing athletes because they have to go somewhere else. In Nevada, track and cross country is a dying sport,” Tibaduiza said.