The recent restructuring of Tech Athletics has severely affected both the academic and athletic lives of nearly every athlete involved. Both the rifle and women’s tennis teams have been suspended due to budget cuts, but there is no timetable for their return.
“I was shocked,” said Katie Barnhill, a junior member of the women’s tennis team. “I have one year left, but the thought of being done with tennis is really sad.”
The athletes will be awarded their 2010-2011 scholarships if they decide not to transfer to another school.
“I would like to play tennis for another year and if I find another opportunity to do that somewhere else then I will,” said Barnhill. “Everyone’s just trying to figure out what to do now.”
One freshman, four sophomores and six juniors will have to make decisions on whether to try to transfer.
Victoria Cran, a freshman tennis player from England, says she has no choice but to transfer.
“I’m the only one who’s got another three years ahead of me,” she said, weighing her options. “If I can’t find somewhere, I’ll have to go back to England.
“All of us on the women’s tennis team are international, so it’s not like we know what to do when we’re trying to transfer schools,” she said. “We don’t want to have to go back to our countries and start all over again. It’s hard enough coming out to another country to one school never mind trying to find a new school.”
According to Cran, the Athletics department has notified other schools of its actions.
“They sent an email out saying they dropped the program if [those schools] want any of our players,” she said.
While the athletes do have the option of staying at Tech another year before transferring, it may end up hurting their chances of finding another school.
“People don’t really want to recruit you when you’ve sat out a year if you’ve not trained or practiced and they’ve got no results for you,” said Cran. “We need to transfer straightaway.”
The restructuring was announced with just two matches left on the tennis schedule.
“I think they had been considering it for a while,” said Barnhill. “But I don’t know why they decided to do it now.”
Tech played one of those matches, sweeping Tennessee State 7-0 just one day after the announcement of the suspension.
“At first we didn’t want to play at all,” said Barnhill. “Then once we got there we just kind of realized that this is our last match decided to have fun with it and take it for all it’s worth.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve had three coaches and two of them have quit on me,” she said. “There has been so much crap going on I guess.”
Cran thinks the situation could have been handled differently.
“The school is in an economic crisis,” she said. “I think there are probably other ways to go around it than cutting two of the athletic teams.”
She reflected back on her reasons for coming to Tech in the first place.
“I got recruited by [former coach] Dan Silverstein and I came to visit and I liked him and the place and people,” she said. “It was friendly here. It seemed like a nice place to be around. I looked at a few other places, but I liked Tech and liked the team.
“I’ve made some good friends here,” she continued. “It’s weird only being here for a year then having to leave Cookeville.”
The Tech rifle team has the distinction of being the only Tech team to win a national championship. The Golden Eagles won the first three NCAA championships from 1980-1982. In 2008, the Tech rifle range was renovated to include state-of-the-art electronic targets.
The last time the Athletics department was restructured in 1984, men’s soccer was discontinued. It has yet to be reestablished.
Barnhill has had a roller coaster of a career at Tech.
“It’s not been too smooth since I’ve been here,” she said. “I would have liked to finish out [my career] strong next year, but it sucks that I won’t get to.