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The Trials and Tribulations of Tufts’ Club Teams: No Horsing Around

Opinion | October 5, 2010

To be a captain of a Tufts club sport is to enjoy the camaraderie of dedicated athletes and to learn, for better or for worse, the inner workings of the Tufts Athletics Department.

For the past two years, I’ve enjoyed my role as captain of the Tufts Equestrian Team (TUEQ), and learned more than I thought possible about leadership, organization, patience and whatever other virtues St. Augustine touted in his tomes. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience albeit not without its moments of frustration.

Without a doubt, the biggest area of contention for us has been budgeting and fundraising. Our out-of-pocket expenses are astronomical—roughly $44,000  per year—and as a point of reference, our starting budget this semester was $7,900.  We make it work every year with rabid fundraising efforts, but we’re still only ever in the black at the eleventh hour.

Our recent transition from the jurisdiction of the TCU Senate to the Athletics Department has been relatively smooth. Well, except for one thing.

At the TCU Treasury meeting last week, I learned about the opportunity groups had to apply for a budget surplus grant ranging in amounts from $10,000 to $100,000. The grants are to be used for projects whose temporal scope would reach five years and which would have a positive impact on the Tufts community. I think these are useful and plausible stipulations; after all, what’s the use of handing $50,000 to a student group only to have it disappear into internal affairs?  Theoretically, there are a couple hundred thousand dollars in TCU Senate budget surplus. While I think the grants would be incredibly beneficial and the large amounts in which they are offered would encourage significant positive changes, I can’t help but wonder whether a few thousand could be spared to help fill out the budget gaps in Tufts’ club sports.

But it’s the disconnect between the Senate and the club sports sector of Athletics that confounds me. The word “club” in and of itself indicates that the organization is not varsity. Go to the Tufts Athletics Website and you’ll see that club sports page is not on the main screen. Click on “Inside Athletics” and you’ll see an option for the club sports page.  The club sports are then divided into two tiers, with the first tier consisting of organizations that have no varsity equivalent. Equestrian falls into this tier, along with cycling, rugby, Tae Kwon Do, water polo, skiing, fencing, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, and table tennis. All of these sports are responsible for their own budgets, coaching, practice space—everything. Athletics might serve as the framework in which these sports operate, but there’s still a lot of guesswork that goes into running a club sport.

It seems to me that perhaps all club sports belong back under the umbrella of the Senate. As it stands, the only additional budgetary aid that we can garner from Athletics comes in the form of buffer funding. While this is, of course, indispensible and greatly appreciated, perhaps club sports would be better aided and better organized under the auspices of an organization that focuses on clubs at their essence. Club sports need the aid that the Senate can provide and would benefit from its transparency as a governing body. Athletics is wonderful at what it does and at what it should do—organizing and overseeing varisty sports. This is not at all  to say that club sports should not be considered robust and competitive entities; rather, they need to be considered at a more objectively realistic level. They need to be supported, funded and regulated by a body that is better equipped to regulate, aid, and promote not only financial stability but goals and purpose as well.