Tuesday, July 08, 2008

History, and a New Era

An alumnus of the University of Oregon, I not only enjoyed the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene the past two weeks, but also the carnival atmosphere of the Eugene '08 celebration. It is interesting to see how the campus has grown over the years, and heartwarming to find more people able to share in the wonder of Oregon's legacy. But aside from all this, I found something strangely newsworthy.

The University of Oregon's wrestling team has been cut from the athletic roster, a decision the athletic director made in the summer of 2007 in order to make room for the new baseball program. At first, the athletic department explained it was a Title IX necessity, that in order to bring in a new male sport, a smaller, less popular male sport would have to be cut in order to meet federal gender equity regulations. As it turns out, that is not the case at all, and so a mystery hangs in the air, along with a lawsuit.

The Oregon wrestling team and their supporters have been working the past year to do everything they can to save their program. Af first, they gave the athletic department time to reconsider, and raised $3 million under the Save Oregon Wrestling Foundation. After the university refused to reinstate the sport, they formed the non-profit corporation Equity in Athletics in Oregon, from which they could file suit. The county judge agreed that Title IX was not a factor, and the athletic department contended that cutting wrestling was merely a management decision. The wrestlers' preliminary injunction to keep the program was denied, but a hearing is scheduled later this fall on the merits of the athletic department's decision.

Track and Field is safe, as it will always be a part of Oregon's legacy. But, wrestling is also an Olympic sport that has a strong history in Eugene, and it has seemingly been pushed out of the arena by baseball, which could bring in a large amount of money to the university: a popular pasttime, but not an athletic sport. Or, it could be that wrestling, itself, is a dying sport. Has mixed martial arts made that much of an impact that the sport of wrestling, (Greco-Roman, freestyle and United States College) has become void? Is Pac 10 wrestling truly in jeopardy?

And, there is more. In addition to announcing the reinstatement of a baseball program, the U of O has added a new female sport to their roster: cheerleading. The Ducks' cheerleaders are apparently still cheerleaders. They still peform at football games, basketball games, and any other qualifying campus event, in addition to non-campus events that are willing to pay by the hour. Also, they compete with other schools, as in the movie Dodgeball, in the emerging sport known as cheerleading or "cheer". This new cheerleading sport will now be known at the UO as Team Stunts and Gymnastics. (As far as I can tell, they won't be doing actual gymnastics, nor any actual stunts, but the name sounds impressive.) How will this affect gymnastics as we know it, and how will it affect cheerleading?

The Link of the Week is our very own Pac 10: Conference of Champions. Team Stunts and Gymnastics (cheerleading) is not recognized by the NCAA, so who will cheer the cheerleaders?

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