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Old 04-25-2010, 09:00 AM   #1
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UC: After Cuts..

But a year after University of Cincinnati men's track and field coach Bill Schnier was told the school was discontinuing scholarship funding for his program - as well as men's cross country and men's swimming and diving - he and his team have found a way to carry on.

"At that time, more than anything else, I felt betrayed by the department - certainly unappreciated - not only me as a coach, but certainly the sport as a team to be cast aside like that," Schnier said. "After 29 years, it's not the sort of thing that a school should do to an employee or a respective team."

Schnier, who also coaches the cross country team, wondered if he would be able to maintain the program at the same level without scholarships to offer. To his surprise, he found out that he could.

"I'm looking at things in a very different way than I anticipated," Schnier said. "First of all, we made it work. We have a team this year that's very possibly as good as our team last year. We have the same morale we've always had. People are doing their usual sports things, getting ready, training, anticipating and competing."

Prior to the RedHawk Invitational at Miami University Saturday, the Bearcats had won all three of their team meets this season, including last weekend's All-Ohio meet in Athens, in which they finished second last year. UC will host the Big East Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships April 30-May 2 at Gettler Stadium.

Not lowering standards
Last April, UC athletic director Mike Thomas made what he called "the painful decisions" to eliminate the scholarships in the three sports in order to save $400,000 to $500,000 per year, with the athletic department facing a $2 million annual deficit. Those athletes who already had full or partial scholarships were permitted to keep them until their eligibility expired.

Thomas said at the time that he hoped the funding one day would be restored. Recently, he reiterated that hope.

"I don't plan on giving up on the idea of having those opportunities in the future," Thomas said. "It's just that that's not where we're at right now."

After the cuts were announced a year ago, it took Schnier about a month to come to grips with the anger he felt.

"I finally decided no one else is going to make me unhappy," he said. "I've lived my life since then figuring out how I was going to make myself happy and not rely on someone else to make me happy. In a way, I've enjoyed this year maybe more than any other. ... It's about the joy of being on a team like this."

Schnier, 65, decided that he would not lower his sights when it came to recruiting.

He found that many - but certainly not all - of the athletes he was trying to recruit were still interested. He sold the UC campus, the school's academic offerings and the track program's history of success.

"When a person comes in on a recruiting visit, long before they come in, we tell them we have no scholarships," Schnier said. "If they're still interested, they're interested for the right reasons. They frequently fall in love with the university and the team and want to come here even though it costs more.

"That, I didn't see coming. In a way, we're attracting people looking to come here for all the right reasons, rather than just the monetary reasons."

Athletes paying their way
Freshman distance runner Oliver Book is one of those athletes.

"I liked the coach when I came and visited," said Book, who's from Starlight, Ind. "The team was really cool. They had what I wanted to study here, too, which was architectural engineering. I'm from out of state. I wasn't sure if I was going to get in-state (tuition). That was the only thing that was holding me back. Once I got in-state tuition, I could afford it."

Sprinter Maurice Norman, a graduate of Winton Woods High School, is the only freshman who did receive scholarship money.

He said he couldn't have afforded to go to UC without the $8,000 and books that he's receiving. He got to keep his aid because it had been awarded before the cuts took place. For now, he has the distinction of being the last UC track athlete to receive athletic aid.

But Norman worries about what will happen to the program in the future as successive classes arrive with no scholarship money.

"I think it's going to have a negative impact," said Norman, who was attracted to UC in part because two of his buddies from high school - Chris Williams and Maalik Bomar - are playing football at the school.

Making the best of it
The lack of scholarships is not something that comes up very often during competition, the athletes say, but it is something they use for motivation.

"I think everybody is working even harder just because we don't have our scholarships," said Ethan Freet, a non-scholarship freshman hurdler from London, Ohio. "We all want to prove that we're still here and we're still trying, even though we kind of got hurt pretty bad with the scholarships getting cut. We're still pulling in athletes."

Schnier doesn't know if his team can continue to succeed at this level without scholarships. But for now, he's enjoying his job as much as he ever has in his 30 years at UC.

"I didn't ask for this," Schnier said of the cuts. "I want to win as much as anyone else. We have not dropped our standards. On the other hand, frankly, it's way more fun."

That doesn't mean Schnier now accepts the school's decision to eliminate funding for his program. That, he said, will probably never happen.

But he has learned to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

"I'm not over it yet," Schnier said. "It's been a year and I'm still angry - not because it's recent, or not because I don't have the ability to forgive and forget, but because it just wasn't right."


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Old 04-29-2010, 12:50 AM   #2
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I read about this and got a donation form from Bearcatbret on BCN many months ago. I personally talked to Coach Schnier and when I renewed my UCATS membership for this year, I earmarked for Track and Field.

I hope some someone will step for Dving and Swimming. We have world class athletes in both sports.
Consider joining UCATS at the $50 level if you are not already a member. @LobotC2DFW
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Old 04-29-2010, 03:14 AM   #3
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Shame that the 'other sports' don't get much attention.
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Old 01-12-2016, 02:52 AM   #4
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YES, indeed killing other sports,A lot has been made of bullying in recent years, bringing to attention some of the issues that many youth have to deal with.
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