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Brown University cuts men's, women's golf among 11 sports

Golfweek logo Golfweek 5/28/2020 Bill Koch, Providence Journal
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Brown University will eliminate both its men’s and women’s golf teams ahead of the 2020-21 academic year, part of an 11-sport purge.

Men’s and women’s fencing, women’s skiing, men’s and women’s squash, women’s equestrian, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field and men’s cross country will all transition to club status, along with the golf teams. Women’s sailing and coed sailing will transition from club to varsity status.

The cuts were announced Thursday in a release outlining the Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative. Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, and athletic director Jack Hayes said the decision was a result of an external review conducted during the 2018-19 academic year.

“I know it will be difficult for many in our community to see some of their favorite teams transition to club status,” Paxson said in a statement. “But I also expect there will be true excitement for the heightened opportunities for competitive play that all the elements of this initiative will bring to our student-athletes.”

The ill-fated men’s golf team played its home matches at Metacomet Golf Club, which has been mired in a sale. PGA Tour star Brad Faxon was among the owners of the club, and has insisted that a sale is imminent and the course will not be maintained for golf in the future. Brown would have needed to find a new home course.

Prominent alumni members on the men’s side include Sasha Lobel, who garnered first-team All-Ivy honors as a junior, posting a fifth-place finish at the Ivy League Championship. He was given an exemption at the Korn Ferry Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, but finished last in the field.

Other top players to come through the program in recent years include Kevin Li (2018), Connor Molloy (2010),  Nelson Hargrove (2014) and three-time first-team All-Ivy and Ivy League Individual Champion Larry Hartel, who graduated in 2009.

The women’s team played its home matches at Ledgemont Country Club and were led by head coach Jackie Beck.

The women’s team was young with just one senior, Maddie Garay.

Brown sponsored 38 varsity teams during the 2019-20 academic year, involving almost 900 students. The Bears had accounted for just 2.8% of Ivy League championships in the decade prior to the 2017-18 academic year, prompting the review. Brown said it would maintain its current operational budget.

Paxson said there were no current coaches or students named to the Committee of Excellence in Athletics, which was formed in January 2020. She used sailing and skiing as examples of how the committee made its decisions. Rhode Island has no mountains within state limits but ready access to the water via Narragansett Bay and the south coast.

“They were looking at facilities issues, natural advantages and history of success,” Paxson said. “What are the teams — if we make the right investments — that can really be great?”

Only Harvard and Stanford sponsored more varsity teams than Brown prior to Thursday’s cuts. The Bears commissioned a 2011 study under former president Ruth Simmons that recommended eliminating an undetermined number of varsity teams and reducing athletic budgets. Brown ultimately opted not to act on recommendations made by the Athletics Review Committee.

“Going forward, I don’t want any teams to feel like they’re at risk of being next,” Paxson said. “I see this as something that every 10 years or so Brown should take a look at and see whether it has the right set of varsity and club teams. I don’t anticipate any changes in the near future.”

Hayes said approximately 150 student-athletes and seven coaches would be affected by the decision. He notified them during a Thursday webinar and is offering follow-up virtual meetings in smaller groups on Friday and Monday. Brown will have roughly $500,000 to reallocate in its budget, and Hayes mentioned women’s soccer and men’s basketball as possible recipients.

“You can’t do it in stages,” Hayes said. “You can’t announce that you’re going to do it and phase it in over time. It just would not be practical for continuing on with the program.”\

Hayes said roughly 70% of student-athletes apply early decision to Brown during the fall of their final prep year. The school made this decision now to address the academic futures of its recruiting Class of 2021. Hayes acknowledged that no time would be convenient for everyone, including the incoming Class of 2020.

“Ultimately, we want all those students to come to Brown,” Hayes said. “But we want to give them as much information as possible.”

Paxson said the changes were made within the guidelines of a settlement reached in a federal lawsuit. Female athletes were found to be underrepresented according to Title IX in Cohen v. Brown. The university agreed in 1998 to maintain a variance of no more than 3.5% between the percentage of female undergraduates and the percentage of female athletic opportunities.

The Bears produced a national champion in men’s track and field during the 2010 outdoor season. Craig Kinsley captured the javelin throw and eventually qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Kinsley is currently on staff as an assistant coach.

Brown’s women took third place in the slalom at the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association Nationals in March. The Bears competed at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y., and boasted a pair of All-Americans in Alexa Dannis and Avery Vilandrie.

Brown’s women also qualified for the 2020 NCAA Fencing National Championships. Casey Chan was named a U.S. Fencing Coaches’ Association All-American.

bkoch@providencejournal.com

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