Being a part of something is an important part of one’s college experience, whether it be a club or a sports team. Many students find a community of friends and support within their organizations. So when Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson announced that the men and women’s Swim and Dive and Tennis teams would be cut from East Carolina University’s Athletic program in May, many of the team members with feelings of sadness and confusion.
Being on a sports team means a lot to ECU’s student athletes. Many of them even chose to come to ECU to be a part of certain sports teams. The Swim and Dive and Tennis teams being cut is obviously a devastating loss to these athletes, as they lost their community. So, how did some of these team members feel when they found out about the cuts?
Junior engineering major Hunter Pigg was on the Men’s Swim and Dive team, which he joined in the fall of 2018. Upon finding out that the team he had been on for almost two years was being kicked off campus, he was confused and in shock.
“When they first told us back in May that we were being cut I had absolutely no idea what to think. I was devastated. Our team had just won an underdog AAC Championship victory earlier in February so it came as an utter shock to everyone. My biggest emotion at the time of getting cut was probably confusion because of how little sense the decision made,”Pigg said.
Not only did this hurt the team members, but also the coaches of the teams. The coaches for the Swim and Dive teams only found out about the cuts an hour before the team members did, Pigg said. Two of these coaches were ECU Swim and Dive alumni.
“Our head coach and associate head coach both swam for ECU and had been coaching here ever since. Their lives were torn away from beneath them in the flash of an eye for no real good reason,” Pigg said.
After the initial shock, Pigg said he felt irritated and confused as to why ECU would cut the teams, considering the history of wins both the men and women’s Swim and Dive teams had had over the years since the 1950’s.
“My concerns at the time of the team getting cut was mainly the people making the decisions. I don’t think they truly understood what they were letting go,” Pigg said. “The team has had a rich history of winning championships since the 1950s with being the most decorated team on campus in terms of national and conference titles. To let go of your most successful team doesn’t make too much sense to me.”
Pigg said he believes the cuts weren’t necessary, as he believes the athletic department still had the funds to keep both the Swim and Dive teams and the Tennis teams on campus, but spent it on unnecessary things.
“The athletic department loves to claim their fiscal responsibility, but shortly after the four teams on campus were cut, they decided it would be a great time to announce the construction of an unnecessary new weight room. I feel like if the department could have spent their money in better ways the kicked off teams would still be here,” Pigg said.
The cuts of these teams not only affects the team members and coaches, but also ECU’s athletic program as a whole, as the teams will not be able to bring home any more championship wins, Pigg said.
Although he is disappointed to see the teams go, Pigg said that the former Swim and Dive team members have stuck together and continued to support each other and reminisce on the good times they had on the teams.
“My favorite part about the team was the friendships that I made. I had met people from all corners of the world, like Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and the UK as well as many from around the US,” Pigg said. These friendships were strengthened by the ups and downs of practices and competitions where we all came together as one with the sole purpose of coming out on top at meets. During all this the members of the team who chose to stay have still maintained the bond we had.”
Junior biomedical engineering major Ethan Knorr was also on the men’s Swim and Dive team, which he joined in 2018. Knorr said he was disappointed when he found out about the teams being cut from ECU’s Athletic program.
“I felt pretty upset and angry once the team got cut especially because of how they went about it. Jon Gilbert hopped on a video call and gave what felt like a 20 sec ‘explanation’ of why it was happening and then left immediately after,” Knorr said.
After finding out about the teams being cut, Knorr said he was concerned about whether he would see his team members and friends that were from other countries who came to ECU to be on the Swim and Dive teams.
Knorr also said he wasn’t ready to give up on his team and his sport just yet and wished he had been able to be on the team for his whole time at ECU.
“Since the team got cut, (I) lost a lot of my friends, transfers, international students who relied on ECU, lost the sport I loved, have less access to athletic facilities and never had the opportunity to make it through my 4 years and get the full experience,” Knorr said.
While the cuts were unfortunate and upsetting for all the team members, Knorr said there had been a few positive aspects for him, like having more time to work on his school work and being able to relax. It also brought the Swim and Dive team members closer to one another.
“The swim and dive teams have come together a lot and really the whole team being cut brought a lot of closer together. The ones who have stayed are definitely a lot more tight knit now and even those who left have supported us the entire way,” Knorr said.
While he believes there is a small possibility the teams will be reinstated at ECU, Knorr said he knows it will take a while to convince the athletic department to do so. Knorr said he will cherish the memories he made on the team that he spent almost two years on.
“I joined because I fell in love with the team and culture they had here. I enjoyed being on the team because I was able to compete in a sport I love with my best friends and was able to represent my university,” Knorr said.
Celia Cerviño Ruiz, who was on the womens’ tennis team last year, said she felt the Athletic Department let the tennis teams down. Ruiz said she was devastated to find out about the decision to cut the teams, as she loved her coach and team members. Regardless, she still appreciates the experience she gained while being on the team.
“I enjoyed the discipline that I gained through my experience. Finding out what my priorities were in life and being able to make hard decisions but having the courage to face those hard situations for the team. Also, all the trips, the practices the laughs and overall all the friendships I built in that program,” Ruiz said.