Opponents of the decision, including some Richmond alumni, coaches and student-athletes, have protested, decrying a lack of transparency and the roles of major donors who spearheaded a $3 million endowment that cleared the way for the addition of a varsity men’s lacrosse program at the expense of two others.
“The problem is, certainly from my standpoint, I’m not seeing a compelling reason why it’s happened,” Richmond men’s soccer Coach Leigh Cowlishaw said. “That’s the real major concern I have with the decision-making process. We’re still searching for answers, and so far they’ve not been forthcoming.”
In April 2011, the school released a 20-page strategic plan that called for a review of the school’s sport mix for the first time in 10 years. This resulted in an 11-member task force comprising faculty, administrators and members of the Board of Trustees, of which Athletic Director Jim Miller was the only athletics-related member.
Meeting for an hour and a half every Tuesday for “about 10 months,” according to Miller, the task force examined econometric models to determine whether to maintain the status quo, add or reduce sports.
In April 2012, the panel presented its findings to the Board of Trustees. According to Miller, the task force concluded that adding men’s lacrosse, without eliminating any sports, would cost the university $2 million and 20 extra admissions spots, not to mention the additional funds and admission spots necessary to create an additional women’s sport for the school to remain compliant with Title IX gender-equity regulations.
“In April, a decision was made by the board, not a vote decision, just a consensus decision, that they wanted to start men’s lacrosse, but we weren’t going to do it if there was any money taken away from the academic mission of the university,” Miller said.
But at some point during the summer, a group of benefactors presented a $3 million endowment to fund a varsity men’s lacrosse program.
“In April, we had no philanthropy,” university president Edward Ayers said in a telephone interview. “Over the summer, the lacrosse community, which had already been mobilized for four or five years, stepped forward.”
According to Ayers, 80 individuals made donations, and “more than 50” contributed $1,000 or more. Over the past few years, Ayers said that the university had maintained “constant communication” with lacrosse supporters, who vowed to raise the necessary money whenever Richmond decided to promote the program to varsity status.