ARTICLE OF THE DAY

The Value of Sports
by Brian North
12/8/05

East Carolina University made headlines this week when athletics director Terry Holland announced that the men's soccer program would be discontinued effective immediately. The Pirates had won only seven of their last 47 games on the pitch, including going 0-15-1 this past season. The program has had just one winning season (1974) in its 41 year history and has never generated much "buzz." The program's best moment came when former player Clyde Simms made the U.S. National team this past year.

Obviously soccer was not a valued sport at ECU. It's an Olympic sport (see non-revenue) that had more money put into it than it ever generated. I have been to about a half dozen soccer games in seven years and there were never more than 30 fans in attendance. But the facilities were poor at best (local high schools have better fields), and there was no program stability (four coaches in the last 10 years). Terry Holland said that an upgrade in the program (new coach and better facilities) would cost too much money at this time.

I haven't heard too many people outside the program who are too upset about dropping men's soccer, but it does raise new questions. When does a sport get the death penalty for not being good? What is too much money spent for an Olympic/non-revenue sport? ECU still has 19 varsity sports, three of which generate money to help off-set costs. Football, basketball, and baseball will always captain the ship in Greenville because of fan interest (ie, ticket sales). Don't expect Holland to ax any more sports. Track, softball, golf, swimming & diving, and volleyball have all had success and all have pretty good facilities. But with travel costs increasing, and the conference spread continuing to the mountain time zone, never say never.

Title IX has a lot to do with the re-evaluation of programs. Legislation in the early 1970's said college's must offer equal athletic opportunities for women. ECU dropped a successful wrestling program to come into compliance with NCAA equity laws. With football talking up 85 scholarships, dropping soccer will help the Pirates stay on track, but it's always a sad day whenever opportunities for student-athletes are taken away. All men's soccer players' scholarships will be honored if they want to stay at ECU, or they will be allowed to transfer immediately to continue their careers elsewhere. But it's a few less opportunities for some kids to get a college education and that to me is a sad day. 

Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com