Citing budgetary concerns, UNC Pembroke drops mens soccer

AD Dick Christy said that scholarships will be honored for any player that wants to continue on as a student at UNCP. An assistant coach has been kept on to help those that want to play elsewhere find other college opportunities photo— photo
UNC Pembroke's men's soccer team finished 5-11 in 2016

Citing budgetary concerns, UNC Pembroke has announced that it will no longer field a men’s soccer program. Athletic director Dick Christy informed coach John Miglarese and his players of the decision on Monday, a day Christy called “one of the two worst of my career,” The other came in March 2015 when the school decided to drop its women’s tennis and men’s golf programs. According to Christy, men’s soccer was also slated to be eliminated in 2015, but was saved because a budget reserve and “revenues that were trending in the right direction.” But with that contingency fund now running out, the recommendation to pull the plug was made to chancellor Robin Cummings. “The decision was totally financial,” Christy said. “Those are outstanding kids, great academically, no outside issues. “When it was made evident to me in the last 10 days or so that we were going to be out of that reserve this summer, I went to the chancellor and made this recommendation because we felt we owed it ot the kids to have this entire semester to determine what they’re going to do for the future.” Christy said that scholarships will be honored for any player that wants to continue on as a student at UNCP. Assistant coach Bennie Bardales has been kept on to help those that want to play elsewhere find other college opportunities. An impromptu scouting combine has already been scheduled on campus for coaches from neighboring schools to come watch and evaluate the Braves’ now-former players. There were 16 underclassmen on the team’s roster last season, in which UNCP went 5-11 in Miglarese’s first season as coach. Nine of them were in their first season of eligibility. Five incoming freshmen also joined the program this week at the start of the spring semester. Miglarese, who had already submitted his resignation to take a job with a professional team near Savannah, Ga., said news of the soccer program’s demise came as a complete surprise to everyone involved with it. “We didn’t see it coming at all,” Miglarese said. “I had a meeting with my athletic director on Monday at three o’clock. That’s when I found out. We got the team together and told them at four.” Miglarese said he appreciates the way Christy handled the situation, specifically that he broke the news to the players as a group at the first opportunity after they all returned from the holiday break, some from as far away as England and the Netherlands, instead of allowing the news to trickle out and have them find out individually by word of mouth of social media. But that doesn’t ease the disappointment and frustration he feels for those affected or a rebuilding program he said was heading in the right direction. “I don’t know if there’s a best way of doing this for the players,” Miglarese said. “I just hurt for them. I feel really bad. I also hurt for the alumni, because the program was in a healthy spot. We had 13 commitments, five of them were already on campus, and we were totally rebuilding the program. Most of these guys had just started with us. It’s a tough situation.” Christy agreed, saying that the decision to drop a sport is “the most gut-wrenching thing you’ll ever go through.” And yet, he added that UNCP could no longer afford the $260,000 a year it cost to sustain the men’s soccer program. He said he hopes that no other cuts will be necessary.With the elimination of men’s soccer, the Braves now field 14 varsity sports — six men, eight women. The school’s women’s program will be unaffected by the changes and will continue to play at the newly renovated Lumbee River EMC soccer facility.”I believe in where we’re going,” Christy said. “I believe that if we’re going to invest in our teams the way they deserve, we’ve got to have a financial model that’s sustainable. … We’re a relatively large department for a Division II school, so I think a certain amount of this may just be a little of right sizing to make sure we can fund things appropriately.”