Track at risk in Mount plan

May 19, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

Soccer, lacrosse and other sports would receive more athletic scholarships, and track and field's allocation would be cut by more than two-thirds under a plan being considered by Mount St. Mary's.

According to athletic director Tom Balistrere, the Mountaineers have 51 athletic scholarships. Twenty-four go to men's and women's basketball, and 13 of the remaining 27 go to men's and women's track and field teams. Under a proposal that will be considered by the Board of Trustees June 6, track and field would be cut to four scholarships.

"It's grossly unfair to take away from a good, sound program and kill it to fund other programs that were never properly funded in the first place," track and field coach Mike Merritt said.

"I don't have any problem with other sports getting more, but why can't we add scholarships instead of take away from us? This sport has given the college international exposure."

In Kenyan Peter Rono, Mount St. Mary's developed the 1,500-meter champion at the 1988 Olympic Games. Kip Cheruiyot and Rono went 1-2 at the NCAA championships the next year, the Mount's first in Division I, adding to the nearly 90 All-Americans the Mountaineers have produced in the sport.

Merritt, a 1979 graduate of the college, is in his sixth year as the women's coach, and took over the men's team from Jim Deegan two years ago.

"I hate to see something that Jim Deegan took 37 years to build be chopped down," Merritt said. "The people here only want to be competitive in the Northeast Conference. They want us to run a Division I program with Division III talent. I'm concerned that they'll be taking away opportunities from minority student-athletes."

Lacrosse and soccer have nearly been non-scholarship programs. They currently operate with one scholarship apiece, but the proposal would boost them to 3.5.

"In order for us to compete locally, we've got to have more support," said A.J. Russo, the Mountaineers' interim lacrosse coach this season.

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