Alumni, students urge university to reinstate athletic programs

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - University of Richmond may have eliminated its Soccer and Track programs, but the athletes aren't ready to say goodbye yet. Friday, alumni say they've uncovered details that show a systematic deception by one particular donor who he says is also a member of the board of trustees.

Dozens of athletes from the Soccer, and Track and Field teams listened to one alum expose what he says are inconsistencies with the school's decision to eliminate both teams.

They misled us,"said alum and former soccer player, Scott Byrnes. "That's the greatest issue we have. That's inconceivable in my mind."

Here's is a copy of his speech. Byrnes urges the University of Richmond Board of Trustees to re-evaluate their decision. He says he tried to help the struggling program over a year ago but got little response from university leaders.

"You had an organized group of soccer alumni banging on your door to help and you didn't engage with us once," Byrnes added.

Byrnes says he has written documentation from the president and athletic director showing no plans to cut soccer or track previously. He later found out just hours before the team's first game that soccer got the boot, but continues to praise athletes to keeping their heads up.

"Following the abrupt announcement that your program had been dropped, in the face of long odds, we've watched you (athletes) keep hope."

"I was stunned," said the team's co-captain Chris Grover. "I stood still for five minutes. I couldn't believe it."

The lacrosse program was upgraded to a Division 1 sport funded with an additional $3 million endowment - mostly paid for by one particular member of the board who was in favor of lacrosse from the beginning according to multiple sources including Byrnes.

"Our hope is that because of these facts that have just now been revealed for the first time, they'll see how poorly the decision was handled - that it was manipulated and made behind closed doors and they'll reverse the decision and reinstate the programs," Byrnes added.

They need to reassess the facts, Grover noted. "At the time of the decision all of the facts were not presented to them."

Byrnes and other athletes say the fund-raising efforts and goals planned for the struggling team were not communicated properly with the board. Otherwise, they believe they'd still be on the roster.

Now the alumni will pass the information along to the board of trustees hoping they'll change their decision. NBC21 has contacted the president's office, the athletic department, and other top university officials involved in the decision, but has not heard back from officials.

Click here for the Track and Field team's investigation into the athletic department's decision.

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