April 22, 2015

Curtains on UW-Oshkosh men’s soccer?

By Christan Shirk

The 2015 fall season will be the team's last unless players, alumni and supporters can convince administration officials to reverse their decision.

On April 6, the UW-Oshkosh athletic department announced its decision to terminate the men’s tennis and men’s soccer programs following the 2015-16 school year. Proposed reductions in the state’s funding of its university system has been cited as the reason for needing to cut some athletic programs, something that the university had already been considering for the past five years. With the elimination of the two teams, the number of varsity sports will decrease to 19: eight men’s programs and eleven women’s programs.

If cuts needed to be made, men’s teams were always going to be the most likely targets as the school continues to pursue Title IX compliance. Despite one more varsity team for women, male student-athletes currently out-number their counterparts 58% to 42%, the inverse of the general student body make-up. Axing the two men’s programs will improve the gender imbalance by 2%.

The primary reason given for men’s tennis and men’s soccer, specifically, being selected for elimination was the lack of a conference championship in these sports (the remaining 19 men’s and women’s teams participate in a WIAC championship which, by the conference’s own stipulations, requires five participating institutions). The second criterion in the decision-making process was the existence of an automatic berth for the conference to a sport’s national championship.

Athletic Director Darryl Sims’ decision, made without any public discussion and apparently without any conversations with current and former coaches and players, had the full support of the university chancellor Andrew Leavitt. The announcement came as a shock to current and former men’s soccer coaches and players who are understandably bewildered with emotions ranging from disappointment to anger. Feeling blindsided by the decision, there are complaints that the process was rushed, lacked transparency, and did not involve input from any of those affected by the decision. Moreover, some believe that if the financial challenges had been disclosed to alumni over the past few years, there would have been sufficient time to seek and collaborate on solutions to avoid the need to cut entire programs.

Even outside the Titan soccer family there has been disbelief that such a successful program would be eliminated. The men’s soccer program has posted thirty straight winning seasons since its 6-7-0 inaugural campaign, the fourth longest active streak behind heavyweights Ohio Wesleyan, Messiah, and Williams and tied for eighth longest all-time in Division III men’s soccer. That adds up to an impressive overall .750 winning percentage. The Titans advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four a total of four times spread across three different decades; only seven active Division III men’s teams have done so more times. Altogether, UW-Oshkosh is among top ten or so Division III men’s soccer programs over the past 30 years.

The 1994 UW-Oshkosh Titans finished the season undefeated (18-0-3) when they were eliminated on PK's in the national semifinal. 

Among the thirty winning seasons were two one-loss campaigns and an undefeated one. From 1991 to 2003, the Titans made the NCAA Tournament ten out of thirteen years, including three of their Final Four appearances. In 1994 Oshkosh came up short in a penalty kick shootout to eventual champion Bethany (W.V.) in the national semifinals, finishing their season an undefeated 18-0-3. In 2003, their lone loss came in the semifinals at the hands of eventual champion Trinity (Tx.). But perhaps their strongest squad was the high-scoring 2000 edition, led by Player of the Year Scott Deopere, which bowed out in the semifinals to host Rowan at 20-2-0.

The men's soccer program at Oshkosh was started in 1984 by Toby Bares who would establish himself as one of the top men’s coaches in Division III soccer, compiling a 344-99-38 (.755) record over his 26 years at the helm. Replacement Wytse Molenaar would lead the Titans to their fourth Final Four in 2010, his first season in charge.

Men’s soccer alumni have begun organizing and exploring how they can convince the athletic director and chancellor to reconsider their decision. A public awareness campaign is underway including the establishment of a website, www.saveuwosoccer.com, and facebook page “Save Our Titans”. And despite Chancellor Leavitt categorically ruling out fundraising as a means to save the soccer program, alumni have initiated a fundraising project. Alumni are hoping to rally enough support that they can at least get Leavitt and Sims to talk to them. But Leavitt has been adamant that the decision is final and will not be reconsidered and that he is not open to sitting down with alumni and players.


Comments or feedback for the author?  Email Christan Shirk.

Tuesday, Aug. 20: All times Eastern
M:
10:00 AM
Shenandoah at Catholic
M:
4:00 PM
Scrimmage at SUNY Delhi
M:
4:00 PM
Pikeville at Ferrum
M:
7:00 PM
Central Baptist at Hendrix
M:
7:00 PM
Whittier at Master's
M:
10:00 PM
Whitman at Eastern Ore.
W:
TBA
Transylvania at Georgetown (Ky.)
W:
2:00 PM
Scrimmage at SUNY Delhi
W:
3:00 PM
Miss. U. for Women at Jackson St.
W:
7:00 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Case Western Reserve
W:
8:00 PM
Our Lady of The Lake at Texas Lutheran
W:
9:00 PM
Mt. San Jacinto at Redlands
Wednesday, Aug. 21: All times Eastern
M:
4:00 PM
Cleary at Olivet
M:
4:00 PM
Dubuque at Concordia (Wis.)
M:
5:00 PM
Howard Community College at Gallaudet
M:
5:00 PM
Ouachita Baptist at University of the Ozarks
M:
5:00 PM
Coastal Bend College at Schreiner
M:
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Roanoke
M:
6:00 PM
Hannibal-La Grange at Greenville
Live stats
M:
7:00 PM
Berea at Transylvania
Live stats
M:
7:00 PM
Capital at Ohio Dominican
M:
7:00 PM
Hanover at Bellarmine
M:
7:30 PM
Randolph at Lynchburg
M:
7:30 PM
Thomas More at Rose-Hulman
M:
8:30 PM
Fontbonne at McKendree
M:
9:00 PM
Club Team at Southwestern
W:
TBA
Emory-Oxford at Agnes Scott
W:
2:00 PM
Lawrence Tech at Olivet
W:
4:00 PM
Santa Monica College at Whittier
Live stats
W:
5:00 PM
St. Joseph (Conn.) at Coast Guard
W:
6:00 PM
Catholic at Shenandoah
W:
6:00 PM
Harris-Stowe at Webster
W:
7:00 PM
Rio Grande at Capital
W:
7:00 PM
Catawba at Pfeiffer
Live stats
Thursday, Aug. 22: All times Eastern
M:
3:00 PM
Ecclesia at Hendrix
M:
4:00 PM
Bethany at West Liberty
M:
6:00 PM
Blackburn at Lincoln Land Community College
M:
7:00 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Asbury
M:
7:00 PM
LSU-Alexandria at Centenary (La.)
W:
TBA
Buena Vista at Graceland
W:
4:00 PM
Eastern Mennonite at Washington and Lee
W:
7:30 PM
Bethany at West Liberty
W:
8:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Southern Ind.
W:
8:30 PM
Rockford at Roosevelt
W:
10:00 PM
George Fox at Concordia (OR)
Friday, Aug. 23: All times Eastern
M:
TBA
La Verne at Santa Monica
M:
4:00 PM
Ferrum at Mary Baldwin
M:
6:00 PM
DePauw at Illinois Wesleyan
M:
7:00 PM
Corning CC at Alfred State
M:
7:00 PM
Spalding at Bellarmine
M:
7:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Catholic
M:
8:00 PM
Elmhurst at Rockford
M:
9:00 PM
Warner Pacific at George Fox
M:
10:00 PM
Redlands at Cal St. Dom. Hills
M:
10:00 PM
Santa Ana College at Chapman
W:
2:00 PM
Transylvania at Spalding
W:
3:00 PM
UC Santa Cruz at Academy of Art
W:
4:00 PM
Shaw at Greensboro
W:
4:00 PM
Compton College at La Verne
W:
5:00 PM
Corning CC at Alfred State
W:
5:00 PM
Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College (ABAC) at Wesleyan (Ga.)
Live stats
W:
6:00 PM
North Carolina Wesleyan at Ferrum
W:
6:00 PM
Salem at Wilmington Hammerheads (ECNL)
W:
7:00 PM
Oakwood at Eastern Connecticut
W:
10:00 PM
Northwest Chrst. at Willamette
Live stats
W:
10:00 PM
Westmont at Cal Lutheran
W:
10:00 PM
Whittier at Soka
Saturday, Aug. 24: All times Eastern
M:
TBA
Catholic at Catholic
M:
TBA
TBD at Merchant Marine
M:
TBA
Alumni Game at Simpson
M:
TBA
Alumni at Greenville
Live stats
M:
10:00 AM
VMI at Eastern Mennonite
M:
10:00 AM
Club Team at Southwestern
M:
12:00 PM
Wittenberg at Anderson
M:
12:00 PM
Principia at Illinois Tech
M:
2:00 PM
Earlham at Otterbein
M:
2:00 PM
Haverford at Haverford
M:
2:00 PM
Alumni Match at University of the Ozarks
M:
2:00 PM
Corban at Willamette
Live stats
M:
2:30 PM
Northern Mich. at UW-Superior
M:
3:00 PM
Johnson University Tennessee at Berea
M:
3:00 PM
Guilford at Brevard
Live stats
M:
3:00 PM
Wilmington (Del.) at Kean
M:
3:00 PM
Alumni at Manchester
M:
4:00 PM
Anna Maria at University of New England
M:
5:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Hampden-Sydney
M:
5:00 PM
Alumni at Baldwin Wallace
M:
6:00 PM
St. Olaf at UW-Superior
M:
6:30 PM
Chapman at Concordia (CA)
M:
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Southern Ind.
M:
7:00 PM
Johnson & Wales (NC) at Pfeiffer
M:
7:00 PM
Fontbonne at Fontbonne
M:
7:30 PM
Biola at Occidental
M:
8:00 PM
Washington Adventist at Gallaudet
M:
9:00 PM
Dallas Baptist at University of Dallas
M:
9:00 PM
TBD at Texas Lutheran
M:
9:00 PM
Bakersfield College at Cal Lutheran
M:
9:00 PM
Alumni at Redlands
M:
10:00 PM
Cal St. San Marcos (exh.) at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
W:
TBA
Alumni at Baldwin Wallace
W:
TBA
Simpson Alumni at Simpson
W:
10:00 AM
Brevard at Converse
W:
11:00 AM
Wittenberg at Mount St. Joseph
W:
12:45 PM
Women's Soccer Alumnae at Adrian
W:
1:00 PM
Shenandoah at Shepherd
W:
2:00 PM
Blackburn at Stephens
W:
2:30 PM
Haverford at Haverford
W:
3:00 PM
University of the Ozarks at Oklahoma Christian University
W:
4:00 PM
DePauw at Anderson
W:
5:00 PM
Johnson University Tennessee at Berea
W:
5:00 PM
Redlands at Cal St. San Marcos
W:
5:30 PM
West Alabama at Huntingdon
W:
8:00 PM
St. Edwards at Southwestern
Live stats
W:
9:00 PM
Alumnae at La Verne
W:
10:00 PM
Alumni at Chapman
Sunday, Aug. 25: All times Eastern
M:
12:00 PM
Carroll at Rockford
M:
1:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Kalamazoo
M:
3:00 PM
Alumni at Willamette
M:
3:30 PM
Scrimmage at SUNY Delhi
M:
4:00 PM
Alfred State at Alfred
M:
4:30 PM
Capital at Oberlin
M:
4:30 PM
Houston-Victoria at Schreiner
W:
12:00 PM
Swarthmore at Catholic
W:
1:00 PM
Webber Int'l at Wesleyan (Ga.)
Live stats
W:
1:00 PM
Adrian at Ferris St.
W:
1:00 PM
Scrimmage at SUNY Delhi
W:
1:00 PM
Lindenwood (MO) at Webster
W:
3:00 PM
TBA at North Carolina Wesleyan
W:
4:00 PM
Ferrum at Concord
W:
4:00 PM
East LA College at Whittier
Live stats
W:
5:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at St. Martin's
W:
6:00 PM
Alfred State at Alfred
W:
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Christopher Newport
W:
7:00 PM
Alumni at Willamette
W:
7:30 PM
Rio Hondo at Occidental
W:
8:00 PM
St. Mary's at Texas Lutheran
Monday, Aug. 26: All times Eastern
M:
TBA
Northwestern (Iowa) at Buena Vista
M:
5:00 PM
Centre at Thomas More
Live stats
M:
5:00 PM
Schreiner at Our Lady of the Lake
M:
7:00 PM
Brevard at Lees-McRae
M:
7:00 PM
Alma at Spring Arbor
M:
7:30 PM
Concord at Roanoke
M:
7:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Denison
M:
8:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Lawrence
M:
9:00 PM
Portland CC at George Fox
W:
TBA
Shaw at Methodist
W:
2:30 PM
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at UC San Diego (Exh.)
W:
7:00 PM
Olivet at Davenport
W:
7:00 PM
Franklin at Spalding
Tuesday, Aug. 27: All times Eastern
M:
TBA
TBD at Merchant Marine
M:
5:00 PM
Greenville at Lincoln College
M:
6:00 PM
Redlands at Cal St. San B'dino
M:
6:30 PM
Hood at Gallaudet
M:
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Anna Maria
M:
10:00 PM
Corban at Linfield
Video Live stats
W:
4:30 PM
TBD at Rivier
W:
5:00 PM
Bethany at La Roche
W:
6:00 PM
Chapman at Biola
W:
7:00 PM
Eastern Connecticut at Southern Conn. St.
W:
7:00 PM
Mississippi Val. at Miss. U. for Women
W:
7:00 PM
Norwich at Plattsburgh State
W:
7:30 PM
Ohio Dominican at Denison
W:
7:30 PM
Rose-Hulman at Southern Ill.
W:
8:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at Greenville
Live stats
W:
8:15 PM
Texas Lutheran at Mary Hardin-Baylor
W:
10:00 PM
George Fox at Northwest Chrst.
No contests today.
No contests today.