#SaveClemsonXCTF, a group of Clemson track and field alums, current athletes and parents, released a video on social media on Thursday calling for the university to reinstate its men's track and field and cross country programs.
The video goes as far as calling the decision by university president James P. Clements and athletic director Dan Radakovich as "racist" for taking potential opportunities away from current and future Black athletes.
The video comes nearly a month after Radakovich announced plans to discontinue the programs at the end of the 2020-21 athletic season. He said that the decision came after reviewing the department's financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cutting men's track and field and cross country would save about $2 million. A projected resource shortfall for this fiscal year was estimated at $25 million. Radakovich said the decision was final and Clemson Athletics was planning on moving forward with 16 sponsored sports.
On the same day that Radakovich's open letter went out, the #SaveClemsonXCTF group was quickly formed on Instagram and Twitter before being fleshed out into a full organizational structure. It includes 11 people in a core committee and other students and alums leading subcommittees on legal strategy, funding, media outreach and digital presence. A Change.org petition to spare the teams has been signed by more than 30,000 people.
Clemson is just one of many athletic programs cutting teams while citing financial effects from the coronavirus pandemic. Stanford cut 11 teams to try and offset a projected $70 million deficit. Non-revenue generating sports like swimming, diving, tennis, cross country and track tend to find themselves in the crosshairs of the cost-saving measures. A group working to save four men's varsity teams at William & Mary was successful after a two-month campaign that included members of the women's track and field program issuing a letter to the university president saying they would not compete until the men's team was reinstated. A fundraising plan is being finalized to sustain the reinstated sports but alums have already raised more than $3 million in donations to support the teams.
In June, Brown University reversed course on its decision to cut its men's track and field program after it was among 11 sports that were going to be eliminated at the end of the 2020-21 academic year as part of moves to remain in compliance with Title IX and improve competitiveness. The eliminated sports would transition to club status.
The timing of Brown's decision came amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Brown came under strong criticism in an opinion piece by former Princeton runner Russell Dinkins. His piece highlighted that the decision was promoted as advancing diversity efforts but was actually cutting 11 Black athletes on its men's track team while keeping other teams intact that featured no Black athletes. Dinkins also assisted with William and Mary's effort to save its program and recently made a trip to South Carolina to speak with organizers in Clemson's movement.
In her letter explaining the decision to preserve the men's track and field and cross country team, Brown president Christina H. Paxton noted: "Students, alumni and parents took the time to share their deeply personal stories of the transformative impact that participation in track, field and cross country has had on their lives. Many noted that, through Brown's history, these sports have been a point of entry to higher education for academically talented students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity, many of them students of color."
In his open letter explaining Clemson's cuts, Radakovich wrote: "In our long-term planning, we looked at the changing demographics of the Clemson campus. Of Clemson's men's sports, only men's track and field and cross country could provide the Department with both substantial cost savings as well as the ability for long-term Title IX compliance."
#SaveClemsonTrack appears to be following a similar strategy in its campaign by underscoring that by eliminating men's track and field and cross country, Clemson would be cutting 67% of its Black athletes in non-revenue generating sports (soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, cross country and track and field).
"When I see those numbers I think, 'Well, we're already a predominantly white institution. This is only going to add on to that,' " Clemson high jumper Anthony Hamilton Jr. recently said. "It's giving less opportunity to a more diverse sport in the sports world–one of the most diverse sports ever created. It just hurts to see that."