My family is full of Gophers. My grandpa coached tennis here, my Uncle ran cross country and track, and my dad and two of my cousins received their degrees here. The success of the track team, as well as this lineage, encouraged me to take an official visit here during my senior year of high school. On my visit, I was immediately struck by the strong culture and the indescribable feeling of family that I got from the team. This team was home. The running community here is impressive; the alumni base is strong; and the coaches lead not only with their words, but with their actions. Since the moment I stepped on campus, I have been pushed to be a better athlete, a better student, and a better person every day. This is a special team. The men on this team are my best friends and my experience here would not have been remotely similar if there had been no men's track team. 

When this news came out, I was crushed. I was crushed for my friends and what they would lose. I’ve since realized that this decision not only affects the current men on these teams, but it also puts in motion cuts across the board at the UMN, it sets a precedent for other schools across the country, and it takes away opportunities for young athletes and people of color. I feel for the future gophers: the young boys who have lost the opportunity to study at and compete for a wonderful university, and the young girls who will watch as this program experiences a slow and painful demise, death by a thousand cuts. First by losing the recruiting and coaching advantage that we have because of our combined men’s and women's programs, then by the potential cuts that will need to be made to fix a Title IX issue that could be created by removing so many male roster spots, and finally by the loss of donors to fund the women's program. 

Until this past month, I had never regretted my decision to run for my home state. Until the athletic department showed us that, in their eyes, we are only numbers and liabilities on a sheet of paper. I don’t intend to downplay the very real budgetary pressure that the athletic department is facing, but I optimistically assume that this pressure to reduce the budget has not been placed on the athletic department to get rid of non-revenue sports, but to assure their continued existence. An existence that may not contribute to the University financially, but that contributes opportunistically and community-wise, contributions that should not be easily overlooked.

The University of Minnesota has never and should never only be defined by the number of wins that our football team has in a year. We should be defined by the opportunities that the University gives, the academic successes that we have, the number of lawyers, doctors, and teachers that we produce, and the extent to which we welcome in and represent the community around us. Removing non-revenue sports goes against everything we stand for. We are better than this; we are smarter than this; and we as Minnesotans should demand a better option from our leaders.