At 11:30 a.m. Friday, freshman goalkeeper Felix Petermann found out the men’s soccer and baseball programs were being cut. Not through an official notice, but via Facebook.
“One of my teammates posted something like ‘RIP men’s soccer’ and then I checked my email and saw it,” he said.
Petermann said he was surprised to hear the news because President Maravene Loeschke had been deliberating the decision for so long — since October, after receiving a recommendation from Director of Athletics Mike Waddell. She had originally said she would make the final decision around mid-November.
“If they wanted to cut it, they could have done it two months ago,” he said. “It actually pisses me off because you are waiting for so long and you still have hope.”
Junior left fielder Dominic Fratantuono said he was in class with teammates pitcher Chris Acker and center fielder Brandon Gonnella when they got a text message informing them of a mandatory meeting in the Minnegan Room.
“We all knew what the meeting was about,” Fratantuono said.
Fratantuono said when he arrived, upwards of 20 officers escorted the baseball team to the Minnegan Room where Loeschke informed them of the cuts. The men’s soccer team was not present.
“The President didn’t even wait for the whole [baseball] team to be there,” he said.
Earlier that morning, Mike Gottlieb, Head Coach of Towson baseball since 1989, and Frank Olszewski, Head Coach of men’s soccer since 1982, met with Waddell where they were informed their programs were cut.
“She met with the kids for two minutes, and for whatever reason didn’t want to talk with me or Frank Olszewski,” Gottlieb said.
The discontinuation of the two teams, and the reinstatement of a men’s tennis team would, as Waddell said in his original recommendation, create a brighter fiscal future for the athletics department. It would also put Towson in compliance with Title IX, which is meant to ensure women have equal athletic opportunities on college campuses. The department could also maintain “competiveness,” which refers to funneling resources, such as scholarships, into the remaining sports.
“I respect the President’s final decision to reinstate the men’s tennis team and discontinue men’s baseball and soccer,” Waddell said. “It’s a decision that is heartbreaking on many levels, and our thoughts are with the young people who play right now at Towson and the people who have worn those uniforms in the past for both of those programs.”
Though members of the baseball team said Loeschke only gave a short speech, she said in a conference call with other reporters Friday morning that she ended with a question and answer period.
“I ended by telling them that I was very sorry for the fact that they had to experience this difficult time. And I also told them that though they may not feel like it right now, the university, everyone of us at the University, is here for them 24-7, to help them with their transition,” she said in the conference call, which was 15 minutes after a mass email had been sent to the rest of campus alerting them of the final decision.
Gottlieb said that between the time that the Athletics Task Force voted in favor of Waddell’s recommendations and Friday morning, he hadn’t heard any official updates from the president, or the Athletics department.
“I’m disappointed in the way it played out,” he said. “I just hope they did their best to make it happen. I don’t know that. No one kept me abreast as to what was going on. I wish the communication level was better. I wish I knew the details.”
The school has kept relatively quiet about the proceedings.
Loeschke’s task force, commissioned in October to review Waddell’s proposal, has declined to comment since it made the decision to confirm the original recommendations in November.
The task force mulled over 13 options, including the elimination of either soccer or baseball and roster redistribution, according to the most recent report released by Loeschke. They also accepted proposals from outside sources, including one member of the baseball team, Zach Fisher.
The school has acknowledged a miscalculation released in an earlier report, which did not accurately count the roster sizes of the indoor and outdoor track teams.
The mistake skewed the department’s calculations related to Title IX—accounting for fewer women athletes.
Universities can comply with Title IX in three ways: officials can make the proportions of female athletes equal to the percentage of women on campus, create new women’s sports teams, or prove that female athletes are being offered opportunities on campus. Towson, for the past several years, has tried to increase the number of women’s sports available, which Waddell has said is no longer financially viable.
A current Towson athletics budget could not be accessed by the time of publication, but the Baltimore Sun reported that under Waddell, the athletics budget has increased 2.5 million over the course of two years, with more than 60 percent going to salary increases and new positions.
Almost $900,000 will be saved by cutting the two sports, according to Waddell’s original recommendation.
Petermann said he made the decision to leave Towson at the end of January, when Loeschke last said she would make a final decision. He said that as an international student, he relied heavily on the scholarship and that he came to Towson with the promise of a raise, but that he really just wanted to play soccer.
Loeschke has said the University will honor all current athletic scholarships until the athletes graduate.
“It was one of the reasons I came to America, to get an education and sports. If I can’t have it anymore here, I definitely want to go somewhere else,” he said.
For the baseball players, however, it’s too late to transfer. They’ll have to wait until the end of the season to try and play ball elsewhere.
“We’re not much of tennis players so we’re going to be transferring,” Fratantuono said. “It’s too early to tell, but I’d say about 75 percent of us are transferring.”