WHAT IS THE FIGHT?
On February 14, 2012, Millersville University issued a press release announcing it was eliminating three men's sports, which were cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. Alumni, coaches, and supporters rallied together to FIGHT against the program cuts. FIGHT became the unifying word that symbolized the efforts to reinstate the men's teams.
a synopsis of the fight
The McNairy administration provided a number of reasons why the sports were being eliminated. They included the budget, Title IX, the Oliver & Lindemenn Report, the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report, a SAAC (Student Athletics Advisory Committee) focus group, and input from coaches and alumni.
Concerned alumni and coaches immediately banded together to form CROS (Coalition to Rescue Our Sports). CROS looked into each of the excuses MU used to cut the programs. In their press release, MU administrators pointed to recommendations from the Oliver & Lindemenn Report and the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report to eliminate the programs. Ironically, those reports concluded that the McNairy administration wasn't doing enough with athletics. They stated that MU sports teams were at a competitive disadvantage compared to other PSAC teams. Both reports provided specific changes that needed to occur to rectify the shortcomings of the Athletics Department. The McNairy administration chose to ignore the recommendations of the very reports they commissioned.
Within 48 hours, CROS disproved EVERY excuse MU used to cut the programs. Through Right to Know requests, CROS obtained the internal emails of top MU administrators. The emails, coupled with the relentless push by CROS, proved that the administration, including then MU president Francine McNairy and then Vice President of Student Affairs Aminta Breaux, fabricated many of the excuses that were used to cut the programs. In the days after their Feb. 14th announcement, MU rescinded many of the excuses specifically because of the efforts of CROS.
After doing so, the one excuse the McNairy administration clung to was the budget. They stated that eliminating the programs would save the Athletics Department $200,000 a year. CROS proved that amount to be grossly overstated. CROS also pointed out that NO other sport was targeted in the cost cutting measure, and that by marginally paring down multiple other sports, these storied programs could be maintained. MU stated that the programs would need an endowment of $4,000,000 for them to be saved. An internal email from President Francine McNairy stated "Even if they (CROS) gave us a check for $4,000,000, those programs are still not coming back."
A plan was proposed by CROS that kept the programs from elimination, which also included cost containment strategies. The plan included, 1) a pared down version of the programs to minimize expenses (less travel, for example), 2) make indoor track & field a Club sport, again to minimize expenses, 3) create an immediate endowment of $300,000 to fund the programs for 2-3 years (funded by an alumnus), 4) work on creating a permanent endowment to help fund ALL sports on a long term basis so that no student is denied the opportunities that athletics provide. CROS stated that if in 3 years, it could not create a permanent endowment to help fund cross country and track & field, those sports would become Club sports. This placed the onus on CROS and other parties other than the University. President Francine McNairy refused to meet with CROS and refused to acknowledge its existence.
CROS representatives met with Jerry Eckert, VP of Advancement at MU. The CROS representatives were Tom Ecker, Cy Fritz, Glenn Stephens, Bob Vasile, and student runner James McBride. When Jerry Eckert presented this plan to President Francine McNairy a few days later, McNairy rejected it AND the $300,000 donation. There was much public outrage because the president of university that cut programs because of money, turned down a $300,000 donation. To CROS, this was proof that MU's final excuse, money, was no longer valid. It was time for CROS to go public with its findings.
On March 22, 2012, CROS held a press conference in front of Biemesderfer Stadium that was covered by several newspapers and TV stations. Three former MU runners conducted the press conference. They were Tom Ecker '75, Glenn Stephens '81, and Bob Vasile '83. CROS presented their findings to the press. The press followed up with MU administrators, who explained away CROS's findings. The media took administrators' explanations at face value and didn't follow up to try and uncover the truth. Thankfully, on January 25, 2013, President Francine McNairy retired and the work of restoring the programs, and Millersville University's reputation began in earnest.
A more detailed version of the events of the FIGHT can be found in the timeline below.
timeline - 2012
The timeline is a day-by-day account of what happened in the two months after the programs were eliminated.
Feb. 14: Millersville University issued a press release announcing it was eliminating three men's sports: cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. Immediately, alumni and former and current coaches started to band together to FIGHT the decision. The group would eventually be called CROS (Coalition to Rescue Our Sports).
Feb. 15: It was found that MU's Council of Trustees knew about the programs being cut in December 2011. Through internal MU sources, it was learned that Dr. McNairy was very much concerned about her legacy. She wanted her legacy to be the MBA program. However, the program cost over $1,000,000, and was later dropped. She then wanted her legacy to became the performing arts centers. The sources also mentioned that Dr. McNairy is not a friend to athletics. She doesn’t like athletics and will always protect the core values of the University (academics).
Feb. 16: An estimated 150-200 people attended the MU Student Senate meeting, including the current men’s and women’s cross country and track & field teams. Other attendees included running alumni, the current MU wrestling team, women’s lacrosse team, and the Lock Haven coach and cross country team. The Lock Haven team drove 3 hours to attend to show support of MU athletes. There were numerous speakers who spoke of a) how the experience of running at MU shaped who they’ve become, b) how their current MU education has provided them opportunities to further that education (ex. Michael Parker, who received a scholarship to Yale), c) how they would not have attended MU if there was no running program. The administration was represented by Michelle Perez, Assistant VP of Student Affairs. When asked direct questions regarding the decision to cut the program, she responded by saying answers will provided at next week’s Student senate meeting.
WGAL News 8's coverage can be found by click here. Click on the video below for coverage by WHTM abc27.
Feb. 19: An internal email from a MU administrator to a MU VP states, "Absent (a) $4 million contribution for sports endowment there should be no retreat." An email from another MU administrator confirms that the Council of Trustees was involved in making the decision.
Feb. 21: It was found that the decision to cut the programs was made in December 2011. It was also found that the Student Senate was never informed about the cuts and they were not at all happy about that. The Student Senate was trying to get answers from the administration, but they weren't receiving any. They said they also sense that the administrators are acting in a "sketchy way" as though they're trying to "cover things up (words used by a member of the Student Senate)." The following was emailed by Student Senate President Emma Stanton.
Dear Concerned Students,
This week had been a challenging one for the students at Millersville University, but especially to those directly effected by this cut. I am emailing you because I promised answers to these questions you've all shared with us. For example: Who made this decision? What does title nine have to do with this cut? Why the Track team ( indoor and outdoor) and Cross Country team? What students were involved in this decision? etc.
The student senate has spent a great deal of time trying to find answers to these questions in the last few days. For many of these important questions we have received vague answers, or none at all. We have scheduled 3 extra senate meetings this week to collaborate, and we've planned a presentation for those attending our meeting this Thursday the 23rd. People from our administration will be at the meeting this Thursday, and we will have a time for questions after their presentation.
If you would like to ask a question at our next meeting we will welcome that. I want to make you aware that this meeting is going to be a regular senate meeting, and we will be following our parliamentary procedure. You must be recognized to speak by the president. So please put you're name on the list, prior to our meeting starting at 6:30pm. Thank you for your involvement and interest in change here at Millersville, and I look forward to seeing you this Thursday.
Millersville University Student Senate President
An internal email from a VP at MU went out to McNairy, Breaux, and a member of the Council of Trustees. In it, the VP was covering suggested responses to one of the members of CROS. The VP suggested they respond with, "(This is a) very difficult decision by administration (do not say trustees decided since he will jump on "sunshine" law) in consultation." It was the first piece of documented evidence that MU was covering up how the decision was made. The VP went on to state, "...would not be a bad idea to build a total endowment for athletics impacting both men's and women's sports but this is a large amount of money..."
Feb. 23: The student Senate meeting was held. To quell the overwhelming backlash against the termination of the programs, then VP of Student Affairs Aminta Breaux goes before the MU Student Senate to explain why the programs were eliminated. Her gross mishandling of the situation only made a bad situation worse. A video of the meeting can be found by clicking on the video below. Unfortunately, the last few minutes were not captured on video and some now classic lines by Breaux were not recorded. The foundation of MU's decision to cut the programs was based on the budget. However, Dr. Breaux never produced any budget numbers, a glaring omission. The crowd at the Student Senate meeting demanded to see proof of MU's claim. Student Senate President Emma Stanton asked Dr. Breaux for budget numbers to corroborate her story. Dr. Breaux said she couldn't. When asked why she was not able to produce the budget numbers for the Athletics Department to prove her claim, Aminta Breaux responded simply, "It's complicated." She went on to say "The numbers are in a really thick book."
Since CROS proved that most all of MU's excuses to cut the programs were false, MU had only one defense. The budget. At the meeting, Dr. Breaux states, "This is a budgetary and financial concern, number one. So if you don’t hear anything else I say here tonight, it’s important that you hear that message."
Feb. 27: The Oliver & Lindemenn Report and the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report were referenced in MU's press release. Recommendations contained in these reports was given as one of the reasons they cut the programs. Multiple requests were made to the MU administration for the reports, which went unanswered. The Oliver & Lindemenn Report was finally obtained through another source on this date. The report suggested that men's and women's INDOOR track & field be dropped as a cost-cutting measure because MU lacks an indoor facility. Ironically, both reports concluded that the McNairy administration wasn't doing enough for athletics. They stated that MU sports teams were at a competitive disadvantage compared to other PSAC teams. The reports provided specific changes that needed to occur to rectify the shortcomings of the Athletics Department. The McNairy administration took action on just ONE recommendation. That was to elevate some head coaches to full time positions. They chose to ignore ALL of the rest of the recommendations from the very reports they commissioned, then used the reports as excuses to cut the programs.
Dr. Breaux gets inundated with requests for meetings from alumni and others. She agrees to having just one meeting with a small group of people. A core group of alumni and former coaches becomes the group that Breaux agrees to meet.
Feb. 28: Dr. Breaux reneges on the meeting. VP of Advancement Jerry Eckert agrees instead to meet. The core group of alumni and former coaches names itself CROS (Coalition to Rescue Our Sports).
Feb. 29: The results of an online petition against the program cuts show wide support. People from all 50 states, and some from overseas, have signed the petition. The yellow dots on the map below show the locations of those that signed the online petition against the program cuts.
March 1: CROS confirms that the total savings from cutting the programs is $120,202. Most of this is from eliminating Scott Weiser's coaching position. This amount was presented to MU to refute their purported $200,000 savings figure. MU was asked to present their figures to document how they arrived at the $200,000 savings. They had no data to present. They conceded that the savings were more in the $120,000 range.
March 2: President McNairy's office sets up a dedicated phone number for those opposed to the budget cuts. Supporters of the programs are told to leave their concerns in a voice mail and that it would be "monitored by the administration." While dozens of messages were left, no one received any acknowledgement of their phone calls.
March 5: CROS meets with Jerry Eckert. The CROS representatives were Tom Ecker, Cy Fritz, Glenn Stephens, Bob Vasile, and student runner James McBride. A plan was proposed by CROS that kept the programs from elimination, which also included cost containment strategies. The plan included, 1) a pared down version of the programs to minimize expenses (less travel, for example), 2) make indoor track & field a Club sport, again to minimize expenses, 3) create an immediate endowment of $300,000 to fund the programs for 2-3 years (funded by an alumnus), 4) work on creating a permanent endowment to help fund ALL sports on a long term basis so that no student is denied the opportunities that athletics provide. CROS stated that if in 3 years, it could not create a permanent endowment to help fund cross country and track & field, those sports would become Club sports. This placed the onus on CROS and other parties other than the University. The Facebook page SaveMUsports was created.
March 7: A group of students printed the online petition, with over 7,100 signatures, to present to Dr. Breaux when she arrived at work at her usual 8am arrival time. At 8am, Dr. Breaux's secretary called Dr. Breaux to inform her of the situation. Dr. Breaux told her secretary to accept the petition. The group respectfully declined and stated that they wanted to hand it personally to Dr. Breaux. At 8:50am, Dr. Breaux arrived at work and was handed the petition. It was captured on video.
Click on the video below to view the "handoff" of the petition
March 8: President McNairy officially turned down CROS's offer for a revised program AND the $300,000 donation. Their was much public outrage that the president of university that cut programs because of money, turned down a $300,000 donation. MU continues to be pressed for the truth. In her original press release, Dr. Breaux said the decision was based in part from a survey of alumni, coaches, and students. This included SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Council). She was pressed for proof as no student, coach, or alumni could be found that talked with Breaux. A SAAC member confirmed that Breaux never contacted them about the decision. Dr. Breaux's office confirmed that they couldn't provide proof of these claims.
March 10: While McNairy cuts the programs due to a "shrinking budget", the Lancaster newspaper runs an article stating that she, and other top MU administrators, received raises in excess of $10,000 each. The article went on to state that the raises amounted to between 5.0 and 8.4% of their salaries.
March 12: It was discovered that MU attributed non-program related expenses to the men's cross country and track & field teams to make it look like the programs had high expenses. Expenses included fixing a window, vacuum cleaners, batteries, repair of dryers, and video equipment for the field hockey team. They also stated that they would save 55% on transportation. Since the same vehicles that transported the men also transported the women, there was no transportation savings. The vehicles would just have less occupants.
The Lancaster newspapers runs an article regarding the petition that was delivered to Dr. Breaux on March 7th.
March 15: MU makes its first revision to its press release. In the Q&A section, they add the following.
Q: What has been the reaction to this decision?
A: Understandably, the affected team members are unhappy as are other student-athletes at the University. Many alumni of the cross country and track and field program have expressed their disappointment with the decision. On March 2 Dr. Breaux accepted a petition requesting program reinstatement. The University has received many comments demanding reinstatement of the teams, suggesting budget solutions to find the revenue needed to support and sustain the program. Unfortunately, replacing the cost to field these programs does not solve the overall budget situation.
March 16: The Lancaster newspaper runs a front page article entitled, "Millersville University nixes alumni deal to fund men's track, cross country teams." The article is about McNairy turning down CROS's plan, along with the $300,000 donation. Not only did President Francine McNairy refuse to meet with CROS, she refused to acknowledge its existence. The public outrage grew even more.
After receiving information that MU's Council of Trustees (COT) was involved in the decision, a member of CROS sent a letter to a member of COT. Primarily, the Trustees are responsible to make recommendations to the chancellor for the appointment and dismissal of the president and to approve the university budget, new academic programs, contracts and fees other than tuition. COT based its decision on the information supplied by the McNairy administration, which contained numerous errors. In the letter, the CROS member requested that COT reverse its decision in light of the false information it was provided by the McNairy administration. The CROS member received the following response.
"Mr. Vasile, please know that I am in receipt of your letter. The Council of Trustees (COT) was informed of this decision prior to its enactment, but it is a budgetary decision that the University administration has the authority to make. The matter was not in the scope of COT decision making; therefore, changing that decision is also not a matter that the COT can undo. Thank you for your contact."
It was found that the Trustees knew about the programs being cut in December 2011. Through internal MU sources, it was learned that Dr. McNairy was very much concerned about her legacy. She wanted her legacy to be the MBA program. However, the program cost over $1,000,000, and was later dropped. She then wanted her legacy to became the performing arts centers. The sources also mentioned that Dr. McNairy is not a friend to athletics. She doesn’t like athletics and will always protect the core values of the University (academics).
March 19: Blue Ridge Cable News 11 in Ephrata runs the following story featuring Tom Ecker of CROS.
Click below to view the video
March 22: A state representative responds to an inquiry from a CROS member. An excerpt from that response is below:
"Mr. Vasile, as a state representative, my influence is limited on the decisions Millersville Trustees make concerning their programs. I regret that I am unable to report a more favorable outcome."
This response confirms that the Council of Trustees (COT) was involved in the decision. As noted above on March 16th, a CROS member received the following from a COT member:
"The matter was not in the scope of COT decision making; therefore, changing that decision is also not a matter that the COT can undo."
There is obvious public frustration as there is no accountability for the decision.
CROS research shows that track and cross country has the lowest cost per participant of all men's sports at MU, with $1,015 per participant. The highest is basketball at $3,633.
It was time to take CROS's findings public.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
On March 22, 2012, CROS held a press conference in front of Biemesderfer Stadium that was covered by several newspapers and TV stations. Three former MU runners conducted the press conference. They were Tom Ecker '75, Glenn Stephens '81, and Bob Vasile '83. Click below to access press conference documents.
Click on the video below to view the entire press conference
The press went back to the McNairy administration for comments. Administrators dismissed CROS's findings by stating, "The allegations are nothing new." The press took administrators at their word and did no follow up, even though the press was provided ample substantiated information to the contrary.
April 16: A member of CROS confronted Dr. Aminta Breaux about the administration's refusal to be held accountable and to provide honest answers. Dr. Breaux kept repeating that the answers were all up on the website. The only information on the website was the press release and the Oliver & Lindemann Report, the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report. Ironically, those 2 reports on the website actually admonish the administration for not doing enough for athletics. After the multiple missteps by the administration in handling this situation, it was clear they were no longer going to answer any questions or acknowledge that their press release was rife with inaccuracies. The discussion was recorded and can be found below. The administration made it clear that they would no longer acknowledge the situation and that the decision was final. The only thing to do was to wait for a new administration.
Click on the video below to view the discussion
May 2: The athletes of the men's and women's cross country and track & field teams hold a candlelight vigil in front of MU's Student Memorial Center. This was the "funeral" for the men's programs. On the ground are running shoes that will never again be filled by male Marauder athletes. The moment was captured by Alex Hess.
May 5: The Millersville University men's track & field team competes in its final meet. The 50+ year men's cross country and track & field programs at Millersville University officially come to an end.
September 26: MU President McNairy is a guest on WITF radio. MU used the excuse of state budget cuts when eliminating the men's programs. The governor recently announced that cuts to state universities was rescinded and that they would receive the full amount noted in the budget. CROS member Bob Vasile calls in to WITF to ask Pres. McNairy if the men's programs will now be reinstated since MU's main excuse was eliminated. Click below to hear the question and answer from the WITF interview.
January 25, 2013: Dr. Francine McNairy finally retires, ending one of the bleakest tenures in MU's history. The new administration starts under Dr. John Anderson.