As a former member of the Minnesota Men's Track and Field team, I know firsthand how impactful this program is. I joined the team in 2010 as a walk-on athlete after being heavily recruited out of high school for football and track and field. Despite a lack of scholarship funds in combination with then-facilities that left a lot to be desired, I enrolled at the University of Minnesota over other Big Ten and Power 5 schools after a fantastic visit with the coaches and two of the upperclassmen throwers at the time who ended up being my role models and idols during my early years at the University of Minnesota. Coming from a family of Big Ten and Division 1 athletes (Father - University of Illinois Track and Field, Mother - Purdue University Volleyball, Brother - University of Iowa Track and Field, Brother - Boise State University Track and Field, Uncle - West Point Football), I certainly had a background in athletics, and had strong intuition for what kind of program I wanted to be apart of. The University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field program was and is a legendary program that is full of very talented, driven, and intelligent young men who strive to be great day in and day out that would make anyone proud to be apart of. To cut this program is much more than just cutting small dollars from a large budget - it is cutting the hopes and dreams of many young men across the country from different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

When I joined the team as a thrower, the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field team was in the middle of a streak of winning 4 straight indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championships. I hoped to be able to come in and contribute to additional Big Ten championships, which we ended up getting one additional team championship during my career. To break it down further, the men's throws program was consistently ranked #1-#2 in the country (battling with Texas) for all 5 years I was a member of the team. It is my understanding that the throws program has continued with that success consistently being ranked in the top 5 programs in the country year after year. From an athletic standpoint, it would be a travesty to the sports world to lose such a storied program all in the name of small budget cuts.

In addition to the athletic success, the men's track and field team was consistently one of the highest performing teams in the Minnesota athletic department from an academic standpoint. This also extends beyond just GPA numbers - the majors of the student-athletes on the team are very diverse with a lot of difficult majors in STEM and business, amongst others. As a graduate of the Carlson School of Management with a BS in Finance and Accounting, and Master's of Accountancy degrees, I felt as if I was among company that continued to challenge my academic and intellectual pursuits while on the team. To take this a step further, I will give a little background of my 3 closest friends and me after our track and field careers at the U of M - 1) One went on to earn his MBA from Dartmouth and is working in management at McKinsey Consulting, 2) Another earned his Master's degree in Supply Chain from University of Milwaukee and is working in a management position for GE, and 3) the third went on to get a Master's degree in Applied Economics from Georgetown University and currently works in Washington DC for a equities trading firm. In addition to these three, I am currently the controller of a real estate investment trust with $1.6 billion of assets under management. As I am sure you can tell from the caliber of my three closest friends from the team and me, this program attracts many very intelligent and driven people who go on to do great things. This is a tribute to the University of Minnesota and the Men's Track and Field team to be able to draw this kind of talent who go on to make a great impact on the world. In addition, these sorts of people tend to have higher earnings and more philanthropic activity. I know that I wanted to pay back any dollar invested in me by the Men's Track and Field program in multiples, but will not have the opportunity to do so if the program is cut. As my wife is an alumnus if the Minnesota Women's Volleyball team, I know she wants to continue to give to the U of M athletic department, but we both find it very difficult to fund something we no longer agree with.

In summary, the experiences, friendships, lessons, community reputation, and bonds forged by the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field program go beyond small line items in a large budget. The University of Minnesota should be proud of the men this program creates as it is a great representation of the U across the country. Cutting this program would be a travesty that may cause irreparable harm to the University and its athletic department. I urge you to reconsider cutting this storied program.

Sincerely, Mark Jennings