If this is to be the final season of Clemson University’s men’s track and field and cross-country, then Head Coach Mark Elliott intends to make it one for the ages as he launches the seemingly improbable task of making the school change its mind.

Elliott, who joined Clemson in 2013 after 12 years as an assistant coach at Louisiana State University, was caught off guard when the Division I school announced the unthinkable late last week.

Athletics Director Dan Radakovich delivered the devastating news last Thursday, November 5. In a letter posted on the university’s website, he wrote:

“After consultation and communication with President Clements and the Board of Trustees, I have made the difficult decision to discontinue sponsorship of the men’s track and field program effective June 2021. The program includes indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country.

After a long period of deliberative discussion and analysis we concluded that discontinuing our men’s track and field program is in the best long-term interests of Clemson Athletics. While this decision comes during the significant financial challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, those challenges are just one of many factors that led to this decision. We will continue to honor all student-athlete scholarships and provide them with support as they work towards earning their degrees. “

He said the school would also honour the contracts of the six coaches employed by the school, which basically means until the end of the 20/21 season.

The athletic director said several factors contributed to the decision including, but not limited to: competitive balance, gender equity and Title IX compliance, financial positioning, impact on diversity among student-athletes and staff, and local and national  interest and participation in the sport.

“The annual $2-million plus in savings will be reinvested into other athletic department initiatives, including our remaining Olympic sports and will help to provide additional financial stability moving forward. The Department of Athletics has already undertaken several significant measures to address a projected resource shortfall of $25 million this fiscal year,” he rationalized.

Elliott told Sportsmax.TV he was stunned by the news.

“It came as a big surprise. I had no knowledge. I found out about an hour and a half after the student-athletes were told by the athletic director,” he said. “They (student-athletes) were caught off guard and they’re still trying to process it, just like we are.”

Jamaica currently has about five or six male athletes on scholarship at Clemson among them Fabian Hewitt, LaFrenz Campbell, Rayon Holmes, Zico Campbell and Rojae Stona. Of the five, three – Hewitt, Campbell and Holmes - are due to graduate this academic year but they will still have college eligibility.

What this means is that if any of them were planning to continue to pursue further college competition and eventually transition to the professional ranks, they will likely consider transfers to other schools. Elliott reveals that if that turns out to be the case, then he will do everything to help them find new schools.

“They would have to seek alternatives and I and the coaches would help them along that path,” Elliott said.

Besides the athletes, at least 50 per cent of the athletics coaching staff that includes Lennox Graham, are likely to lose their jobs as under NCAA rules, the number coaches a school can employ depends on whether the number of programmes they have.

“It affects everyone, three of us or six of us could be gone,” Elliott said while explaining why for him the situation is so regrettable.

“Track and field is what got me to where I am today. My parents could not afford to send me to college so I got a scholarship just like these young men,” he said.

“It hurts on many levels. This is my livelihood too but I don’t view it as that alone. It is an opportunity to give opportunity to those like myself. It does hurt.”

It is why he say wants this coming season to be one of Clemson’s best ever.

“The focus is on the student-athletes to be able to be competitive. That is where the focus is right now. Life offers you challenges. How you respond is what makes the difference. We will try to get them to reconsider," he said. 

 

 

 

 

Jamaican coaches Mark Elliott and Lennox Graham are in limbo after Clemson University announced today that it will discontinue its men’s track and field and cross country program at the conclusion of the 2020-21 athletic season.

Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich made the announcement this afternoon saying that the programmes to be discontinued include indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country. Radakovich said the university will honour the contracts of the coaches through to their full term, which means that the coaches will be paid up until June 2021.

Clemson Athletics will also honour the scholarships of all impacted student-athletes through their undergraduate years at the level of financial aid that they are presently receiving, the statement said.

The NCAA-maximum number of allowable scholarships for men’s track is 12. Clemson’s 12 scholarships are presently split among 26 student-athletes, 15 of whom are scheduled to graduate by August 2021.

Clemson also supports an additional 25 walk-on student-athletes in the program.

“This difficult decision is a result of an exhaustive examination of our athletics department over the past several  months,” said Radakovich. “After careful analysis, we concluded that discontinuing our men’s track and field  program is in the best long-term interest of Clemson Athletics. This decision impacts incredible student-athletes,  and we know how hard they work and the effort and pride they take in representing Clemson University.”

Head Coach Mark Elliott’s phone went unanswered when Sportsmax.TV called today. He took the Clemson head coaching position in 2013 after spending 12 years as an assistant coach at Louisiana State University.

Notably, Jamaican Olympian and 800m national record holder, Natoya Goule, who won an NCAA title under Elliott’s watch, followed him to Clemson that year.

Assistant Coach Lennox Graham (hurdles and long sprints) joined the coaching staff in 2017 after spending a decade at Johnson C Smith University where he enjoyed tremendous success guiding 27 athletes to NCAA Division II championships titles, both indoors and outdoors.

In a brief comment to Sportsmax.TV, he said he just heard the news prior to being called and that he was still processing it.

Graham’s professional club, TRS, currently trains at Clemson. Danielle Williams, the 2015 World 100m champion, Kyron McMaster, the Commonwealth 400m hurdles champion and World Championship 400m hurdles finalist Leah Nugent are all members of the club.

Men’s track and field has been sponsored at Clemson since 1953, claiming 23 combined ACC Team Championships, 16 individual NCAA champions, 22 Olympians and four Olympic Gold Medalists.

Kevin Nedrick is to return to court on September 22 on a rape charge. Police arrested him on Tuesday and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, following allegations that he raped a woman in her campus apartment on Monday night.

Petersfield High School track coach Machel Woolery is in a state of shock at the news of the arrest of Kevin Nedrick in Minnesota on rape charges.

Caribbean student-athletes and coaches are breathing a collective a sigh of relief following the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to rescind a policy directive that would have forced them to leave the country if their universities moved their classes online because of the Covid19 pandemic.

Winning three All-American awards has helped take the edge off a frustrating end to the 2019/2020 NCAA athletics season for University of Texas sophomore Julien Alfred.

At 5-foot seven inches Kahlil Walker is tiny by basketball standards, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for with his passion for the sport and an incredible brain.

Having signed for Mississippi State University (MSU) in the USA this past week, Kingston College star jumper Shacquille Lowe is looking forward to winning titles and battling with former teammate Carey McLeod when he begins his collegiate career, hopefully in the fall.

I have long since remonstrated against the US colleges’ ‘abuse’ of athletes.

I am, of course, not talking about the rigours athletes go through trying to keep their GPAs while being asked to run at track meets week in, week out and burning out before big events like World Championships and Olympic Games. That is for another discussion.

I am talking about the massive amounts of money colleges earn on the names of their sports stars without ever having to shell out any money to these athletes who must make do with whatever their parents can scrape together or side jobs will allow. All this while being asked to train for long hours, in addition to making heads or tails of their classes.

It has long been the practice of the United States Collegiate governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to put an athlete in the class of professional if he were to earn from his sporting endeavours and therefore be barred from participating in college sport.

On the face of it, I get it. Doing that should limit corruption from private entities, agents and the like, from ‘buying athletes’ and keep the college experience clean.

However, the truth is, the laws around professional athletes versus amateur athletes have meant that for some, they are forced to choose sport over education, like the high-school basketball star who goes straight to the NBA, or the first-year linebacker who chooses to forego the rest of his university education for the NFL.

That ‘some’ who I speak of are the lucky ones. Because the truth is, there are many others who get injured along the way or simply do not make the transition after college and they will never earn a dollar from the sport they have given quite a bit to.

College sport in the US is big business. The coaches earn multiples of millions per year, the schools earn millions from merchandising and ticket sales. But the student-athletes who they earn on the backs of, make nothing. A wholly exploitative situation if you ask me.

On the quiet, when a poor student from a rural community in the United States, or even the Caribbean, is wanted by a number of schools, boosters will offer ‘gifts’ to the parents to make their college the choice.

Can you imagine, a poor mother living in a one-room dwelling getting an upgraded house, a car, or even cash to feed the rest of her family? I would have loved to have been able to do that (talent aside) for my parents when a college came calling.

But in order to do that, you have to keep quiet about it. As if it weren’t your talent that was being courted. If it were ever found out, you would lose it all and you might even find yourself in legal troubles.

That hasn’t changed, but the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to earn from the use of their image and likeness is a step in the right direction.

Now, maybe some of the big bucks the colleges and coaches and everybody else involved in collegiate sport seems to make, can go back to the people who actually earn it.

The Board of Governors of the NCAA met on the issue this week and agreed that athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for third-party endorsements “both related and separate from athletics.”

In addition, athletes can receive payment for other opportunities that come with stardom. “Social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances” make the list of areas in which athletes are now ‘allowed’ to earn while maintaining their amateur status.

Still, payment will not come from universities for this stardom and I believe that is where the rule-change falls short.

The schools make a killing off their athletes and should give back. Again, I get it, the idea is to make for a level playing field where wealthy schools don’t end up with all the great athletes.

But doesn’t that happen anyway?

The United States collegiate and Jamaican Track and Field community are in mourning over the passing of former George Mason University coach, Dalton Ebanks, who died Saturday from complications of the Coronavirus Covid-19.

Noted Jamaica track and field coach Stephen Francis expects collegiate athletes to be hardest hit by the current shutdown surrounding the coronavirus pandemic but insists all is not yet lost.

The rapid onslaught of the infectious disease has seen the postponement or cancellation of sporting events around the globe.  In a bid to halt the spread of the virus, many universities in the United States have closed their doors, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association taking the decision to axe its spring athletics season last week.

Further afield, pressure continues to mount on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Tokyo Games, with the latest news suggesting a decision would be reached in four weeks’ time.  With the universities serving as a home, training base and source of frequent and healthy competition for athletes who may qualify to take part in the Olympics, Francis believes they will be hardest hit.  The list could include several Jamaicans. 

“The biggest problem I see is the NCs (NCAA) because that is where you have the most breakthroughs, so to speak, and that’s cancelled,” Francis told RJR Sports.

“Those athletes can’t even train because their coaches are gone home and the universities are closed, so most of them are without a coach,” he added.

“But by and large for most of the world much hasn’t changed, people still, for the most part, can do their workouts; they can’t compete but it’s up to the coaches to devise methods for substituting for competition.”

Francis believes, however, that athlete should not worry about missing out on the Olympics Games if it is cancelled, as there would still be opportunities to shine. 

“Every year you have people that make a breakthrough, but I don’t think you need the Olympics to make a breakthrough.  You can make a breakthrough so long as there are meets to be run."

Francis has coached the likes of Olympics and world champion medallists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Melanie Walker, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Asafa Powell.

 

 

Veronica Campbell-Brown only competed for the University of Arkansas for one indoor and outdoor season, but her presence there legitimized their sprint programme, said Razorbacks Coach Lance Harter.

Driven by a hunger for success, St Lucia’s Julien Alfred won the sprint double at the Big 12 indoor Track and Field Championships on the weekend spurring the University of Texas Longhorns women’s team to their third straight team title.

St Lucian teen sensation Julien Alfred raced to fast times at the Dr Martin Luther King Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend.

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