The University of Cincinnati shocked their men’s soccer team by informing the players it is discontinuing the program during a Zoom meeting on April 14.
Sam Robinson, a freshman forward, said the meeting included athletic director John Cunningham and many other staff members along with the team, but Cunningham broke the disappointing news.
“I was completely stunned and devastated and honestly confused at first,” Robinson said of the program’s discontinuation. “Nobody had any idea this was a possibility. Last thing we heard from the administration was that they were going to do everything they could for us and that they would find us the very best coach possible.”
“Then the next meeting we get is the athletic director telling us they’re shutting us down,” Robinson told TWSN. “Quite a leap.”
In a statement released by the University’s Athletic Department, Cunningham cited “widespread uncertainty” and “profound challenges,” because of the coronavirus when he announced the program’s dismissal.
“The Coronavirus kind of allowed me to take a step back and look at the entire picture of our athletics department and what we could manage in terms of the number of student-athletes that we support,” Cunningham said via The Enquirer.
American Athletic Conference (AAC) Commissioner Mike Aresco contradicted Cunningham’s statements on the “Paul Finebaum Show” on April 14.
“In talking to Cincinnati, this is something they might have done without the pandemic,” Aresco said. “Their soccer program was a concern to them, they wanted to devote more resources to their other sports. They felt they could do more if they didn’t have soccer.”
Robinson expected the Zoom meeting to be a “check-in,” and hoped they would give some updates about the team’s coaching search. Instead, he was hit with an emotional gut punch. Senior Aerin West felt similar to Robinson.
“I wish the university had given the players a heads up on what was potentially on the horizon,” West said. “These types of decisions aren’t made overnight, and I wish the players were given more time to deal with the news.”
“We are making this decision now to enable our men’s soccer student-athletes to have an opportunity to play at another institution if they choose to do so,” Cunningham said in his statement.
West explained the difficulty of the situation. “Teams across the country already have their teams going into next year, so going into the portal now is difficult,” West said. Robinson and his teammates feel like they were left out to dry.
“They cut the program and set us on our own to search for new schools in mid-April. By now, almost all schools will be done recruiting for the fall. Few roster spots are open anymore, and scholarships are all taken now,” Robinson said. “With no warning we were given a very short window to find a new school and make a transfer decision.”
“One minute I’m a UC soccer player living the dream; the next minute I’m entering the transfer portal scrambling to find a new team,” Robinson said. “So my future is up in the air.”
Robinson appeared in 16 games as a freshman and started three. Since entering the transfer portal, Robinson has come into contact with a number of schools and is confident he will continue playing Division I soccer.
“Right now it’s just a matter of finding the best situation I can,” Robinson said. Finding a good fit for him is harder because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can’t go visit schools or take any tours,” Robinson said. “That’s tough because it’s hard to know how you feel about a campus without actually seeing it first hand. Same goes with a coaching staff and team. But for now I’ll just have to adapt.”
Robinson said he plans on taking virtual tours of potential schools since he can’t see them in person.
“Scholarships for men’s soccer student-athletes will be honored during the duration of their academic careers,” according to a statement released by the University of Cincinnati. But Robinson said most student-athletes are looking to leave the school. West believes that all his teammates are capable of continuing to play.
West, who was one of four seniors on the Bearcats last season, is graduating this spring. He feels like something was taken from him.
“This weighs a large toll on not only me, but other former players as well,” West said. “Because of COVID-19, I was unable to play as an alumni in the annual match; but now I never will.”
West is planning on taking the Law School Administration Test (LSAT) in hopes of going to law school in 2021. But, he’s unsure if it will be at University of Cincinnati.
“After this, I don’t know to be honest,” West said of attending law school at University of Cincinnati, even though he did originally plan on applying.
ESPN reported that in the 2019 NCAA financial report, Cincinnati’s men’s soccer program operated at a $726,498 deficit. The team’s final coach was Hylton Dayes, who stepped down in March after 19 years with the program leaving with a school-record 140 wins.
Although much has been taken from them, the one thing that remains is the brotherhood and experiences these players shared.
“I have made a lot of relationships over my four years at UC. Cam Panley, for example, is someone I am proud to call a brother and UC made that possible. There are a plethora of things that I am grateful for in regards to my last four years,” West said. “I wish I was not leaving the university with a bitter taste in my mouth.” Robinson echoed West’s feelings.
“I look back at my time at UC in a very positive light. I had a great freshman experience,” Robinson said. “I loved playing for the team and representing the school and city of Cincinnati. I built some great relationships with people and the memories I have are ones I’ll always want to hold onto.”
“However, that is the past. Going forward I must admit that my feelings towards the university are not good. I just feel so betrayed. So disrespected,” Robinson said. This disrespect is felt by plenty of his former Bearcats.
Cunningham nor the University responded to requests for comment for this story