Western Courier

A stressful time for Leatherneck athletics

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A stressful time for Leatherneck athletics

Danny Frey

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Yes, the news of Western Illinois University discontinuing its men’s tennis program is important and noteworthy. Although, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to panic like some Western supporters and media members are. In this type of situation where a Division I university is forced to cut an intercollegiate sport, it’s hard to not speculate.

This really is more of a news story rather than a sports story, which shows the absolute disarray that the budget of the state of Illinois is in. This state budget crisis has carried over to public higher education schools in the state. Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas recently announced that about 50 university workers will be laid off, but I’m not sure anyone outside of the athletic department thought that a whole sports program would be dropped.

The move actually is not surprising. Tennis just doesn’t make much sense for this area with no indoor tennis courts available. Western Illinois tennis, in the winter months, has to move practice and home matches to indoor facilities in Galesburg. Last season, Western only hosted one home match that was actually in Macomb. This is an added travel inconvenience for everyone involved.

With this being said, Western Illinois women’s tennis is safe for now. An athletic department is less likely to drop a women’s sport because of Title IX. Contrary to popular belief, Title IX does not dictate that there has to be an even number of men’s and women’s sports. It’s actually based on a three-pronged system, but I can let you look up more on Title IX, because it’s a little confusing to explain.

A male sport is also more likely to be cut at an institution like Western because football takes up so many scholarships. So now, Western offers 10 women’s and nine men’s intercollegiate athletic programs. 

Another interesting rumor from around the athletic department was that Leathernecks head football coach Bob Nielson had interviewed for the head coaching vacancy at South Dakota. On Tuesday, Football Scoop made the report, which is interesting due to the fact that the Coyotes are in the same conference as Western (Missouri Valley Football Conference) and finished with a 5-6 record last season.

Many people are wondering if South Dakota is a better job than Western. When it comes to having success, and success right away, the answer is clearly no. Yet, the pay will be better, and the facilities are arguably an upgrade.

However, nothing is confirmed from this report, and another rumor is floating around that an interview has been lined up for Nielson at Southern Illinois, where former Western Athletic Director Tommy Bell is trying to fill his head football coach position.

It’s not surprising that after earning the honor of MVFC Coach of the Year that there would be offers. The surprising part is that it’s within the conference, and is possibly being considered. This is also horrible timing to be shopping around at other schools after the news of dropping men’s tennis. Now, people are trying to connect the two, and assume that the state of the athletic department is why Coach Nielson is looking at other places to coach.

To me, this is a stretch, and merely just a coincidence. Other than the funding problem, which is going on all over the state in public university athletics, Western athletics have had its best year in a while. Making the football playoffs for the first time since 2010 and the men’s basketball team upsetting Wisconsin are just a couple of the accomplishments.

Those accomplishments can keep happening, but folks need to relax and let time work this entire thing out. Once some sort of state budget is in place, then we can have a real idea of the state of intercollegiate athletics at Western.

For the time being, just calm down.

Twitter: @smallmedorlarge

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
A stressful time for Leatherneck athletics