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The Trials and Tribulations of Tufts’ Club Teams: Playing Footsie with the Athletic Department

Opinion | October 4, 2010

Let me take you back to the pre-frosh years—the time when you toured college campuses, listened to various spiels about the academics and extracurriculars the university offers, all the time wondering, “Is this school for me?” I’m sure that one of the first things you heard was, “If we don’t have a club that you want, we will help to start one.” That promise was made to me at Tufts, but I found that there is not as much truth in the statement as I would have hoped.

I am on the executive board of Tufts University Football Club (TUFC), a less rigorous yet still competitive alternative to varsity soccer, what used to be the junior varsity team. Founded in 2006, TUFC has grown to over 70 members, two teams, and has even started a girls’ team, TUWFC, all spurred on by the elimination of JV programs. One would think such a popular club would get the full support of the university. This is not the case at all. Since its inception, TUFC and other club sports have encountered various obstacles in dealing with the Athletic Department and university administration. According to their Constitution, TCU Senate cannot directly fund sports teams.   This  responsibility shifts to the Athletic Department.  The Athletic Department is free to distribute money to club sports teams as it sees fit.

For TUFC, talks with the Athletic Department had been few and far between until last semester. The Athletic Department recognized TUFC, but gave us only “tier two” status. This status is reserved for club sports that have a varsity equivalent and means that we have no access to trainers, venues for games, or regular practice times. Jake Schiller, executive board member of TUFC,  described the treatment of TUFC members as that of “second class citizens.”

Tier two clubs must pay out- of -pocket for fields, referees, jerseys, and equipment, which means heavy dues must be collected from each member. TUFC has resorted to a variety of fundraising efforts to help cut the cost to members, but raffles and the bake sales can only help so much.

The TCU senate approved an increase of money to club sports, but club sports have not seen so much as a penny. That money does not go directly to the individual teams; instead, the collective sum of money for all club sports is given to the Athletic Department, which in turn distributes the money. Of course, if there were Tufts facilities that could be used for games, less funding would be needed. Even without playing games at Tufts, only about $1,000 would eliminate all practice, field, and equipment related expenses for TUFC.

It is not just an issue of funding that hinders club sports. Scheduling changes daily because the times and locations of practices can be altered by the Athletic Department on a whim. This is not to say things haven’t gotten better for club sports and TUFC. In the past year talks have reopened between club sports and the Athletic Department and relations have been much improved. TUFC is now a recognized club and has field space for practices at night.

Yet, much more needs to be done overall in order to improve club sports’ situation. For a large club like TUFC to get such little attention is shocking and a disappointment for students like me who arrived at Tufts expecting more.