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UVM absorbs fallout of program cuts


By Patrick Garrity

Free Press Staff Writer

A day after five varsity sports were eliminated from the University of Vermont's athletic program, some of those left standing quietly expressed relief and resolve.

"I'm feeling OK, but nobody's in the mood to be celebrating anything," said David Moore, men's tennis coach.

The trimming of men's and women's gymnastics, men's indoor and outdoor track and women's volleyball is intended to relieve a burdened athletic budget. The long-expected cuts also are intended to give UVM "a tighter focus and clearer sense of priorities," said David Nestor, interim vice president of student affairs.

Nestor confirmed Thursday the school chose to eliminate just five of its 27 varsity teams after contemplating wider cuts.

"We've considered a lot of different options beyond what the final decision was," Nestor said. "Other minds prevailed in feeling that this is the right step at this time."

Men's and women's swimming and diving, golf, tennis and men's and women's cross country are the programs designated by the school as bottom tier sports that survived.

Moore said he was convinced the men's and women's tennis teams would be among the casualties. When he learned the programs would be spared, he said he felt relief -- then sorrow for those not as lucky.

"I have mixed emotions, and I think everybody feels that way," said Moore, starting his second season as head coach. "Things are really good for us right now. I've got 12 guys, including six new guys, and I feel we really have something to build on. I'm just very happy to get the opportunity to do that."

Moore said he would work with university officials to try to make tennis a more self-sufficient program not so reliant on the school's limited resources. "I'm not going to now sit back and say, 'Well, I've got my job.' Any ideas of how we might have saved ourselves before we can still employ to better ourselves now."

Muff Parsons-Reinhardt has spent 15 years as women's tennis coach. She said her foremost desire is for some good to come from the five teams' demise.

"It's very difficult, but I can only hope they're doing it for the right reasons," she said. "I want to believe only positive things will come of it."

Nestor said Thursday the school's priority for the athletic department now shifts to fundraising and continual assessment of the scope, focus and quality of the programs. He warned more changes could come if fundraising efforts fail.

"If we can't harness the financial support from outside the institution that we think we can, we'll have to re-assess again," Nestor said.

The five teams will compete during the 2001-02 year. Volleyball's season already has begun. The gymnastics teams are in the middle of preseason training. Men's indoor track begins Oct. 15.

"It's a tough day for everybody at UVM," said Gordon Woodworth, the school's sports information director who also serves as an assistant coach of the golf team. "All the student-athletes have a bond with each other. I don't think there's been any celebration or boasting. It's a tough day over here all the way around."

Contact Patrick Garrity at 660-1868 or at pgarrity@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com