By Nick Bravos
Nearly a month ago I heard through the grapevine about some surprising rumors that left club sports as a whole sizzling with frustration—rumors which ended up being true.
Sometime this spring a decision will be made as to whether or not club sports, including Hellfish, Blue Jays, MUTs, Polo Bears, and so on, will take on the Cardinal name instead.
After asking around , the answers I got from members of Student Senate and faculty were almost insultingly obvious. Because the athletic clubs are becoming a larger presence on campus and in the region, when they travel and compete against other schools and clubs they are representing Saint Mary’s University and, therefore, reflect it, so the next logical step is these players should be seen as Cardinals.
It’s simple, straight forward and makes perfect sense, right? If teams that represent SMU travel and compete, they should use the traditional aesthetics to make sure people know who they are, and there should be unification on all fronts so we all look alike.
Except there’s a problem, and a big one: if these clubs make some kind of change to their identities—some of which have been student-run, competitive clubs for nearly 15 years—what will happen to the way they are conducted? Will these clubs now have varsity benefits? Will these clubs have an equal opportunity for the Gostomski Fieldhouse or field time with varsity sports? Will these clubs finally have access to the athletic trainer? My point is, this is a complex process that requires many—not one—complex solutions—one that requires input from the student body, and not just the ideologies from Strategic Planning or the Student Life office.
After talking with Chris Kendall, who initially brought up the idea, he made it a point that the safety of all the students involved will be the first priority. One solution he came up with is to add a supervisory person of some kind that will travel and accompany the team for safety and liability reasons. This idea flared up when he heard of three separate incidents where students received severe concussions this fall semester—one of which I was a witness to.
The concussion that I saw left my friend in total cognitive shutdown for one week, which meant no class, no TV, no reading, no computer usage, and even daily conversations should be kept to a limit. For most of that week, he was in a dark bedroom either staring up at the ceiling of his Old Village suite or sleeping. While this example, as well as the other two, is tragic, the one I witnessed could not have been prevented in any way by having an advisory person present. These are rough sports that, let me assure you, people will get hurt in, but I agree with Kendall that some sort of safety measure should be implemented.
What’s also legitimately important in the future discussions is that, there must be a level of transparency involved in order for both faculty and the student bodies representing club sports to be completely aware of what acceptable changes will be made. Ultimately, the decision is left to the administration as to what will happen, which may end in a hammer-swing, but I believe things won’t end that way. I think there will be a concluding decision that is fully representative of our student body’s beliefs.
I think people identify the word “club” to have—in my mind—a negative connotation that reflects that these sports aren’t taken as seriously as a varsity sport, which a) is an impressively common fallacy and b) is a shame because the club sports I mentioned earlier have some of the best athletes on campus. In fact, I know a handful of students that were recruited for a varsity sport but were persuaded otherwise to play club.
I write this not as a threat or as an insult to the efficacy of this university’s administration, but more so as a deterrent to avoid some sort of Pyrrhic Victory that will break the orderly link between a sub-culture (club sports) and its larger, unifying culture (SMU). Instead, this is to show that the students here are listening very intently to the changes that may take place, changes that I hope will leave the relationship of both cultures in good light with the other; one that I hope doesn’t leave a loathsome taste in mouths of the other.