ACLU "fighting" to reinstate CMU's men's track and field
American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is again urging Central Michigan University to reinstate its men's track and field team program.
A second letter sent Sept. 16 was addressed to the CMU Board of Trustees after the original letter to President Bob Davies, sent May 4, never received a response, according to Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the ACLU Racial Justice Project.
The ACLU said that by cutting track and field, a sport with heavy participation from Black athletes, the university will face both racial and legal implications–especially after replacing track and field with golf, a sport historically less accessible to people of color.
"Because African American male athletes participate in track more than any of the other minor sports, replacing CMU’s track program with golf, a minor sports program that is demonstrably 'white' speaks volumes about the university’s racial insensitivity if not its discriminatory intent," the letter from Fanbcher to the Board of Trustees read.
Men's track and field was cut on May 19, 2020. Administrators said eliminating the program was due to the university's budgetary issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CMU projected long-term savings of $628,798 while impacting 36 student-athletes across the men's track and field and cross country programs. Two full-time assistant positions also were eliminated.
By cutting the program, CMU met the NCAA-minimum of 16 varsity athletic programs – but only five men's teams, one below the minimum number of varsity sports to remain Division-I eligible.
CMU was granted a two-year waiver by the NCAA to find a program to replace track and field and avoid falling to the Division-II level.
On Aug. 5, CMU announced is was reinstating its men's golf team for the 2022-23 academic year. This not only revived a program that was a varsity sport for 49 years between 1936-1985, but made CMU officially Division-I compliant.
Fancher said if the university doesn't respond to the letter the ACLU will "keep fighting."
"This is going to continue to haunt them," Fancher said. "They might think that they can just let this pass, but if it takes another year, two, three, four or five years they're going to continue to hear from us until there's been some sort of resolution of this."