Town hall addresses athletes, Athletics budget

29

Occidental student-athletes and a panel consisting of coaches and Athletics staff members came together in Choi Auditorium this past Wednesday to address a series of questions and concerns regarding the state of Occidental Athletics. The questions, which were submitted by student-athletes prior to the town hall meeting, covered an array of topics from how much influence coaches have on the admissions process of prospective athletes to why only 1 percent of the college’s budget is allocated to Athletics.

The town hall started with ASOC Senator and student-athlete Paul Charbonneau (first year) introducing the panel, which included track and field head coach Rob Bartlett, volleyball head coach Heather Collins, softball head coach Alison Haehnel, women’s lacrosse head coach Stephanie Janice-Mark, water polo head coach Chris Lee, football head coach Doug Semones and Sports Information Director Mike Wells.

The opening question of the town hall asked the panelists to define the roles of faculty advisors to varsity sports. The coaches and staff elaborated on the faculty advisor’s role as a source of support that athletes can go to if they have questions regarding scheduling or need help contacting their academic advisors. Some coaches gave more specific examples.

“[Kinesiology] Professor Raney [the track and field advisor] will come and talk to the (track and field team) about the importance of proper nutrition and what they can do to limit the impact of training on their body,” Bartlett said.

The attendees then turned their attention to concerns regarding the Marketplace and the possibility of expanding its hours and including more nutritious meals to better accommodate student-athletes and their early morning practices and games. While this was not the first time appeals to the Marketplace have been brought up, all the coaches were in favor of increasing the Marketplace’s hours of operation.

However, an increase in the Marketplace’s hours or any alterations to the menu would involve budget changes, which would require consultation and approval from the administration. Acknowledging that these would not be simple changes, the panel suggested a meeting be held with the administration and Marketplace officials to discuss the possibility of implementing some of these requests.

But while not all appeals can be quickly accommodated, coaches have also recognized that the Marketplace has been helpful in the past regarding simple requests as long as the teams communicated with the staff in advance.

“They have been really helpful, and they are open to working with us as long as we communicate with them,” Semones said. “For camp, we supplement the budget for our players and they responded by providing more eggs, tortillas and rice. Overall they were happy to help.”

Concerns for dual-sport athletes and the support that they receive from coaches were also addressed at the town hall.

The panel of coaches all responded in a similar fashion, believing that if an athlete is capable of handling their athletic demands while successfully balancing their academic workload, then they would continue to offer their full support. The coaches also agreed that they would be willing to communicate with the student-athletes’ other coaches to ensure a smooth transition between seasons.

“We want to make sure the transition for those players is easy, if they need time off between seasons then we want to make sure they have enough rest, in the end it comes down to communication,” Janice-Mark said.

The conversation then shifted toward the role of coaches in the Occidental admissions process.Coaches are able to relay their preferred recruits to admission committees via referral forms, but they can not demand to have them admitted. Unlike Division I schools, Occidental does not have a system in which a prospective student-athlete is admitted automatically if they fulfill certain academic or extracurricular requirements.

“Admissions will not admit someone who can not cope academically, because Occidental is a holistic institution that looks at many aspects of a prospective student,” Bartlett said.

In terms of the budget Occidental allocates to Athletics, the panel suggested that a closer inspection of what one percent of the overall budget includes would help clarify the amount of support Athletics receives, as the number as a percentage can be misleading.

However, several coaches acknowledged the school’s recent change to how it funds Athletics — though they did not elaborate on the tangible aspects of the changes — and compared to other schools in the conference, Occidental, though not the best-funded SCIAC school, is by no means at the bottom of the pack.

Coaches also touched on the topic of gear and equipment purchase variations between teams. The coaches said that each individual team has its own budget, and that coaches have yearly meetings to manage the budget. They added that athletes are more than welcome to voice their opinions on what gear is purchased.

“Every coach meets with a budget manager, and what is bought varies from sport to sport, and on what the coach’s views are on gear,” Bartlett said.

Collectively, the participants in the town hall addressed numerous issues spanning a diverse group of topics. For a more robust review of all questions addressed by the panel, students can review the notes of the town hall in the email sent by Charbonneau last week.