Davies 'strongly believes OCR will find no evidence to support claims of racial discrimination' in track and field cut

President Robert O Davies gives his opening statement during the press conference addressing the federal investigation into the removal of the men's track and field team on Thursday, April 28, in Powers Hall.

Central Michigan University President Bob Davies held a press conference April 28 to address allegations that university's decision to cut its men's track and field team and replace it with a men's golf team was made on the basis of racial discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will launch an investigation into the allegations in the next few weeks. 

"These allegations were made by an individual unaffiliated with the university whose consulting business aims to push universities like ours into reinstating canceled track programs, even when it is not in the best interest of the institution or its students," Davies said.

Russell Dinkins, the executive director of the Tracksmith Foundation, filed the complaint. The Tracksmith Foundation is an organization that works to reinstate men's track and field programs at colleges and universities. Among these are Brown University, William & Mary University, Clemson University and Minnesota University. 

Davies highlighted that an investigation is not an indictment and that the OCR is carrying out its federally mandated responsibility to look into the claims made by Dinkins.

"We understand the seriousness and importance of this objective process," Davies said. "We will comply fully and strongly believe the OCR will find no evidence to support claims of racial discrimination." 

Davies cited three reasons for cutting the program in 2020:

Financial reasons: 

  • CMU Athletics had a $4.5 million decrease to overall budget in the three years preceding the elimination of men’s track and field. 
  • The cost to run a championship-level men’s track and field program is around $1 million for Mid-American Conference schools. 
  • Eliminating men’s track and field yielded actual cost savings of $625,000 last year. 

NCAA/Title IX compliance reasons: 

  • The NCAA requires CMU to offer a specific number of men’s and women’s teams, while Title IX requires CMU to provide balanced opportunities for both male and female student-athletes. 
  • CMU needed to balance the compliance requirements with a reduced and limited budget. 
  • Eliminating men’s track minimized impact on student-athletes while generating sufficient cost-savings. 

Team performance/student interest: 

  • Fewer than half of MAC schools sponsor men’s track and field programs, providing fewer opportunities for the men’s teams to compete. 
  • Overall participation in men’s track and field at CMU had been declining for nearly a decade.

When CMU first made the decision to cut the program, track and field parents and alumni quickly reached out to Dinkins asking for support. After looking into the matter, he filed a complaint against the university in October 2021. 

The goal of the complaint is simple — get CMU to reinstate its track and field program. Though Dinkins anticipates a lengthy process, he said the investigation could go quickly with a resolution.

"This investigation would resolve automatically if the university decided to go into a mediation process with the aggrieved party or the person who filed the complaint," Dinkins told Central Michigan Life. "Our ask is simple: We want the men's track and field program back due to the opportunities afforded along racial and socio-economic lines, and so it's really simple. The university, if they want this investigation to go away, they can make it go away tomorrow, they can bring back the men's track and field program."

Davies said the same financial, compliance and student success measures that lead to the decision still exist today. 

According to Davies, the 2019-20 men's track and field team had 30 student-athletes: three Black students, three multiracial students, two international students and 22 white students. 

The CMU Men's Golf Team was created over a year later. Davies said he did not know the full diversity make-up of the team because it was still being assembled. Out of the eight students who have committed to the team so far, three are students of color.

Kevin Jennings, former men's and women's golf coach at Prairie View University A&M, was selected to head the CMU men's golf program in October 2021.

"Our choice to later add in men's golf was again motivated by financial, compliance and student-success reasons. Any allegation to the contrary is inaccurate and misleading," Davies said. "We have hired an outstanding coach with a record for national success and who has demonstrated a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion as part of his recruitment strategy and in the sport of golf."

Davies said the course the golf team will use for its outings is undecided. He said alumni donors have contributed funds for the team.

Dinkins said he believes there is a strong case of evidence that shows CMU is at fault for discrimination in its decision-making.

"I submitted a lot of information to the Department of Education, and so they're gonna have a very thorough review," Dinkins said. "The university is going to have to answer all of those questions. They're going to have to provide documentation evidence to show that not only did the decision not have an outsized impact but that there was no sort of direct intentionality to hurt Black athletes.

The letter from the OFC was received on April 25. CMU has 12 days left to reply before the investigation begins. 

Read the full letter below: