On Thursday, March 27th Gustavus Adolphus College announced that its Nordic ski team will no longer receive funding as a varsity sport for the 2014-2015 season. Gustavus is a small private college located in Saint Peter, Minnesota.
The news came as surprise to the Gustavus skiers who were told of the decision in a Wednesday evening meeting with Athletic Director Tom Brown.
According to Gustavus sophomore Marit Sonnesyn the team was given no indication that such a decision was pending. No official explanation was given for the decision, and Brown could not be reached for comment.
“A lot of it had to do with MIAC [the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference], we aren’t a MIAC sponsored sport, with MIAC being the athletic conference that Gustavus belongs to,” Gustavus Nordic Head Coach Jed Freidrich explained. “Without having that MIAC conference…that’s probably the main reason they decided to focus on sports with MIAC sponsorship.”
A press release from Gustavus noted, “The MIAC discontinued its sponsorship of Nordic skiing in the 2004-05 academic year when the number of schools required to sponsor a championship dropped below the league minimum of six. Currently only two of the original six MIAC institutions sponsor Nordic skiing. For the past ten years the Gustavus men’s and women’s Nordic ski programs have competed as members of the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA).”
“This is another major loss for the Central region of college skiing, College skiing as a whole, and Midwestern skiing,” former Gustavus skier Zach Wagner wrote in email to FasterSkier. “The current team members were called to a meeting with the Athletic Director who stated the team would be a club for the 2014-2015 season and that the decision was in the best interest of the college. This decision follows the pattern of schools like St. Johns/St. Benedict’s, other MIAC members three years ago, and Whitman College five years ago.”
The athletes were told that the decision was “not about money,” according to Sonnesyn, who wrote, “We offered to fund ourselves, and that got shot down. This is just one of many incidents that has occurred recently to make unfair cuts, with no warning, or any explanation.”
The Gustavus Adolphus women’s team finished seventh and the men’s team at CCSA championships in February. The team includes Marian Lund, who had two top-20 finishes at the regional championships, and Tyler Gustafson, who represented the United States at World Junior Championships for biathlon this year.
“When they told us that they weren’t ‘cutting’ the ski team and simply removing it as a varsity sport to become a club sport, we were furious,” Sonnesyn wrote. “Many of us had big dreams for the upcoming seasons and those were taken away. As of now, I’m not sure what the club team would look like next year, or if some of us will choose to go to school elsewhere. We are looking for support, both on campus and throughout the ski community.”
Friedrich, in his tenth year as coach of the team said, “It’s a tough loss, a lot of our athletes are heartbroken, I know I am. All of us are having a hard time dealing with it.”
The club team will be advised by Friedrich, who said Gustavus may, or may not compete next year in the CCSA. “It will be a schedule that is driven by students and what their desires are,” said Friedrich. “Students will have the main say in which races we pursue.”
The Gustavus athletes have set up a petition to protest the decision. As Gustavus junior Scott Williams wrote, “We as a team are trying to do everything in our power to do what we can to save it.”
Pasha Kahn writes and coaches in Duluth, Minnesota.