Tuesday, November 24, 2009

tough call

There were some sad faces at my university yesterday when the school announced that it would be discontinuing its football program that had begun in the 1930s. The decision had not been made without thought. The athletic director, Peter Roby, explained in a very well articulated statement the rationale for the decision. Simply, the school could not afford to spend the money that would be necessary to compete with schools in its conference, the Colonial.

In my twenty eight years at the school, the football team has not been able to finish over 500 more than a few times. The reason was that our stadium was akin to a high school field. Recruiting athletes was difficult because competing schools had better facilities. James Madison University in relatively rural Harrisonburg is regularly among the leaders in the Colonial conference. Juxtapose JMU's facility with Northeastern's, imagine being a sought after recruit, and you know where you might choose to attend, all other factors being equal.

Nevertheless it is a depressing day for the many athletes who played here. Peter Roby could not have liked to make this decision, but it seems to me--given all--to be a courageous one. Students of communication might look at his statement on the web as an example of how to sensitively relay news that will not be joyfully received.

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