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Commentary: Quinnipiac Volleyball’s Welcome Survival

QU's Amanda Armstrong lines up a serve as her team looks on earlier this season.

By David F.P.

On a Saturday Night just one week ago, the Quinnipiac Bobcats Volleyball team narrowly edged the Hartford Hawks to win a close match on their home turf and to the elation of the crowd and the team. It was the team’s first win of the season and they did it in the last match of the tournament they hosted against a familiar opponent. It was also the first win for the team after their program was saved from the chopping block by a federal court ruling earlier this summer. Though from watching the game you would have no idea there had been any sort of drama surrounding the team off the court.

Years ago the Quinnipiac University Athletics Department announced they would be cutting Men’s Golf, Indoor Track, and the Volleyball program. Later it was announced that the school would be adding Women’s Competitive Cheerleading to offset Title IX concerns. This however did not stop the Volleyball team from suing the University for the cuts setting off a court case which first enjoined the department from cutting the team, and later a Judge ruled in favor of the Volleyball team, questioning whether Competitive Cheerleading was an established sport.

The whole legal arguments as well as the ongoing debate philosophically, legally, and operationally regarding Title IX is something I follow but is not something I feel very qualified to weigh in on and I try to avoid it. My approach to college sports is that I do not support any cuts to programs, and I hope never to see any. However despite this hope I have some experience with cuts from my time following gymnastics especially.

In the past years James Madison cut 10 teams at once citing Title IX compliance. This included both Gymnastics teams at the University. The University of Rhode Island cut Women’s Gymnastics to replace it with Women’s Lacrosse citing the increased popularity of LAX, though budget cuts eventually prevented them from adding the Lacrosse team as well. URI would later cut additional sports, though their original efforts had been merely sports replacement. MIT a year later cut 8 teams including hockey (one of the big four sports) citing budgetary concerns. All three institutions invoked different reasoning and methodology to their efforts but in the end teams were lost. Personally I always found MIT’s cuts to be the fairest, especially since the club teams that replaced them have been supported, and admittedly it’s a little different in a Division 3 environment then a D1. JMU’s seemed to be odd, and URI’s was just blatantly a smack in the face to the entire sport of Gymnastics. [Full disclosure I donate to both URI and MIT’s women’s club gymnastics teams.] I also remember watching the Maine Black Bears volleyball team battle to an upset win over Connecticut a few years ago, only to be cut the next year along with Men’s soccer for budget reasons.

These experiences shape my view of the Quinnipiac cuts. On the one hand, there was a sport replacement, replacing Volleyball with Comp Cheer, however it seemed to be budgetary rather than philosophical. It’s a much larger grey area to me to see then the URI cuts were. Also frankly, I support the growth of what was competitive cheer but has now been deemed the sport of Acrobatics and Tumbling, as I am a fan of all the disciplines that incorporate gymnastics. However I am not the fan of one sport growing at the expense of another.

Also, I am a huge volleyball fan as evidenced by my coverage here on the blog. Quinnipiac Volleyball is to thank for that. Back during my time working nights at a small sports company in the middle of Connecticut (not ESPN) I found myself often searching for sporting events to take in prior to my shift, and that drew me to the Hamden campus one day a volleyball tourney was underway. It opened my eyes to the excitement of a volleyball match and the rest is history. It is true that I had seen a volleyball game before at UConn but the tourney really was what hooked me.

I wish it didn’t involve a court case, I wish Quinnipiac didn’t decide to cut the team originally, I wish the Acrobatics and Tumbling team didn’t have to be in any sort of limbo now (I’m not entirely sure what their status is), and I wish that Golf and Track did not get cut as well, but I am also elated to see Quinnipiac Volleyball still competing.

I tip my hat to Quinnipiac Athletics as they are one of the few programs in the state to provide running announcements of points scored. Plus, on the friday night I attended the tourney there was an energetic crowd appearing at Burt Kahn court lead by a de facto cheerleader with some interesting choices of hats. It was a good event. Some sporting events are quiet like a crypt, this was not. Quinnipiac has something good going on with this team and hopefully more people will stop by to check it out.