As the Acting Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Mr. Gary Tanner has recently announced the decision to discontinue Haskell Track & Field. “It was a very hard decision for all of us to make,” Tanner expressed. He added that “cutting the program was not a decision solely made by him, but it was a decision made by a vote from many of the coaches and administration.”
Coach Albert Gipp was not present for this meeting because of other obligations he had planned. Mr. Tanner stated, “We want to have the opportunity to build stronger programs. We make Gipp do a lot and he is spreading himself very thin, between coaching 25 different events, coaching men’s and women’s Cross Country, recruiting for both sports, and running Thorpe, he has a lot to do.”
Mr. Tanner and Dr. Chenault had announced that this wasn’t the first time it was decided to close the Track & Field program, stating that administration had made the same decision to discontinue last year. During a public meeting that was conducted on April 5th, 2017, there were a lot of strong opinions being traded around the room between the administration, the coaching staff, and the student-athletes. Track & Field Athlete Elizabeth Davey who was a key member involved in raising petitions to save the Track & Field was greatly impacted about the way administration had handled the meeting. In reply to a comment that Mr. Tanner had made during the meeting she said,
“As an athlete, we are constantly trying to improve ourselves, and we don’t always get what we want, but I feel like what you’re saying is not only for track and field. Improving yourself for scoring, whether that may be getting baskets at basketball games, hitting a homerun, anything, I feel like what you’re saying to us is that if we don’t make national requirements, it sounds like you’re going to turn down any future student-athlete.” (Elizabeth Davey, student)
During a later interview, Tanner wanted to clear up any misinterpretations on some comments he had made earlier during the emotionally charged meeting. “Yes we do want to win, but it’s not about being nationally qualified, it’s about being at a respectable level of competition in College Athletics.” He continues to state that the facilities, staffing, and budget are just not up to par with other competitive Track & Field Programs out there. “Our school works with one of the smallest budgets around”, he added.
The decision has made many of Haskell’s athletes wondering if administration is going to stop there, and many of those same student-athletes are actively searching for ways to hopefully reintegrate Track & Field in the future. Members of Haskell Track & Field have started petitions to save the program, but there is little that can be done because the decision to not include Haskell Track & Field as a part of the NAIA had a deadline on April 1st. Noting that there is no adequate places for Haskell athletes to high jump, long jump, not enough coaches, and as well as accepting the fact that sometimes athletes have to visit other tracks around Lawrence to get accurate times during practice, administration felt that their facilities were just too inadequate to support a competitive Track & Field Program.
With the Athletic Department looking optimistically forward, they plan on spreading apart the budget more efficiently between the teams, hiring more coaching staff, and having adequate resources for every team. For next school year, Haskell Athletics looks to take a stronger initiative on recruiting as well. Tanner is actually preparing for a recruiting trip in the Southwest soon too. With Gipp getting a chance to shift more of his focus to Haskell’s Cross Country team, and Tanner switching from Golf and coaching Softball next year, Haskell Athletics is making plans to move forward and continue to build.