Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Friday, September 09, 2005

Commentary: AD Kovalchik Takes Spirit out of the Game

Andy Losik
Hillsdale College Class of 1994

As the Chargers take to the new turf of Muddy Waters Stadium for the first time this season and we celebrate reunions for two of the greatest seasons of Hillsdale football, something will be missing--cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders? Yep, a fixture of college football around the country is no more at Hillsdale College, victim of the price chopping axe of athletic director Mike Kovalchik.

According to Julie Ryan's article in Thursday's Collegian, after Hillsdale's cheerleading coaches resigned in the spring Kovalchik decided not to seek replacements and to dismantle the program.

Ryan states in the article' "When deciding if the school should hire new coaches for the cheerleading program, Dr. Kovalchik said that the cheerleading scenario has experienced five different part time head coaches in the last seven years and because of the other programs being cut, he could not justify keeping cheerleading."

Couldn't justify it? What's it take to sponsor a cheerleading squad? Every high school from Podunkville to the great big ones seems to be able to handle that monumental task. In my eyes, the question is "How can you justify NOT having cheerleaders?".

Every time something gets cut, it's a restructuring that is supposed help other programs. Hillsdale has lost several varsity sports since 2003. We sure have seen big improvements in other sports. Haven't we? This move might save a handful of bucks but it directly takes away from the school's two most visible programs, football and basketball.

Anything that diminishes a program's advantage is detrimental. It's a slap in the face to the women who have worked hard to keep the cheerleading programs growing and improving over the past years and its a slap in the face of the football and basketball athletes because it tells them that what they do isn't even worthy of fielding cheerleaders to support them!

A school with an enrollment as small as Hillsdale's in a league as big as the GLIAC needs every advantage it can get, especially in its home stadium. I could list a great number of classics that have been fought and won in that stadium and without a doubt the intangible energy coming from the fans in blue and white made a difference. The students who fill the endzone like the Pit Posse need to be encouraged to make as much noise as possible. Taking away the cheerleaders doesn't encourage anything but apathy.

"Big deal, get over it," you might say it.

I guess in the grand scheme of things it might be a little thing. But the little things are often ones that make the biggest difference, and they often add up with few noticing. I know that the coaching staffs are doing all they can to not only make Hillsdale competitive but the champions that supporters expect while little pieces of the athletic program keep going away. Since 2003, five varsity sports have been eliminated and in the last round of cuts this spring even an administrative position that directly benefited athletes' lives off the field was nixed. Sure, all little things, but what saddens me is that fewer and fewer and kids are getting to wear Charger blue and have their lives molded by great, great people like I did.

I guess the thing that has me so upset is that this is a direct blow to what I like to call the great Hillsdale spirit. That spirit runs through this tiny college and bonds so many of us together. It more than anything has allowed Hillsdale to excel against great odds on and off the athletic field. It is what the many Hillsdale men took into battle with them while defending the Union and human dignity. It is what brings old teammates out of the woodwork in support of a Charger brother whose wife is battling cancer. It is what has allowed Hillsdale to stand in the face of adversity so many times and emerge triumphant.

Maybe there IS just no money to promote that spirit anymore. My big question has always been: Instead of cutting, why aren't the powers that be working to find a way to make it happen? But, I see Hillsdale has its resources headed for other projects right now like a graduate school of statemanship and a retirement community. Pardon me though if I am late to jump on the latest bandwagon Central Hall is pulling through town. I'll just keep doing my part to support the guys who represent all of us every Saturday in the fall.

Feel free to email me your take on this situation. I'd love to hear what others think.

1 comment:

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