The University of Illinois at Chicago announced that they shutting down their men and women’s gymnastics teams after the upcoming 2018-19 season. In doing so, it will drop the number of Division I gymnastics programs down to 15.
To put that into perspective, there were 179 Division I gymnastics programs in 1981. However, it’s not just a college level issue because research from Illinois High School Association shows that high school gymnastics programs are being cut just as frequently.
According to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s chancellor, Michael Amiridis, the decision was made due to the rapidly rising costs needed to operate varsity athletic teams.
This decision will affect the 11 female athletes and 25 male athletes who had eligibility to continue their college career. The school’s athletic director, Garrett Klassy, also voiced his distress in the school’s statement.
“This is the most difficult decision I have had to make in my career as an athletic administrator,” Klassy said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “I know that it impacts many people who have invested much of their lives into UIC gymnastics and our entire athletic department. However, this was a move toward progress that needed to be taken.”
Once the upcoming season is over, the University of Illinois at Chicago agreed to transfer the affected students to any other school while honoring any and all of their scholarships.
In protest over the recent decision, the UAA gymnastics team sent out their own letters in the middle of October in an effort to do their part in saving the gymnastics program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Comparatively, our very own UAA has had their own share of athletic teams on the brink of extinction. For example, some may remember the fall semester of 2016 when there was an effort to get rid of both the men and women’s ski teams as well as the men and women’s indoor track and field teams.
Head ski coach for 11 years, Sparky Anderson, remembers it well. As noble as it appears to be, there’s also a lot more than just letter-writing that goes in to saving a college athletic program.
“We actually banded together with UAF,” said Anderson. “We had our own Facebook page, we had our own website, we were circling petitions, we had people working on our behalf at the legislative level and we also encouraged everybody to contact the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents said that they received more correspondence on the ski team issue than any other issue that they’ve dealt with for as long as they could remember.”
UAA’s efforts to save both the ski and indoor track and field teams have prevailed. The ski teams have their first match of the season next month in Fairbanks as they participate in the Alaska Cup. Both indoor track and field teams, on the other hand, have their first preview race after the new year starts on Jan. 12 in Seattle.
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