or more of its varsity sports teams, junior Haley Bull can’t help but think of her 13-year-old sister Carly.
Bull is an athlete on Maryland’s swimming and diving team — one of the squads that could be squeezed from the athletic program because of an ailing budget. She and her younger sister share a passion for the water.
“It’s been fun for me to be the role model, because I know she looks up to me,” Bull said. “She tries to beat my times from when I was that age.”
UMd. President Wallace Loh released the final report for the , recommending that at least eight of its 27 varsity sports teams be removed, but Bull and her teammates were blindsided days earlier when they learned they were one of the teams being considered for termination.
She said the team received an e-mail the previous Tuesday that announced a meeting would be held before practice, which was not out of the ordinary. But that particular meeting turned out to be different.
“We all gathered before practice and our coach walked in with Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson, and it just sucked the air out of the room. It was one of those horrible feelings where your stomach just sinks,” Bull said.
“It’s the first time [Anderson] had ever talked to us, so we knew it wasn’t positive,” Bull said. “I don’t even think there are words to describe that feeling. We sat in shock for a few minutes and then it just hit us. My world just came crashing down in a second.”
Since then, the team, alumni and others have worked to rally support, which was evident on Thursday, the first of the three-day Terp Cup Invitational at Maryland. “Save the Terps” banners hung on the walls surrounding the pool, some of them made by competing teams. Fans waved similar signs from the stands.
The support is rallying online, too. In less than two weeks, more than 13,000 people joined the “SAVE UMD SWIMMING & DIVING” Facebook group. Thousands have signed a petition in support of the team, as well.
UMd. swimming and diving alumus Kevin Reardon spearheaded the viral movement by creating a website where supporters can make donations or purchase T-shirts.
“I know what these athletes put in and what it takes at their level,” Reardon said. “It would be absolutely devastating for our sport, because we don’t have a pro level. These are the pros right here. I want to do anything I can as an alum to help them.”
Athletes from other Maryland teams feel for the eight vulnerable squads, too.
Becca Pang, a senior on the gymnastics team, was one student-athlete at the home meet versus University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Nov. 12, five days after the team got the news. Pang said she was shocked to hear about the cuts.
“Over the last couple of years we have heard rumors of teams possibly getting cut, but we never thought it could actually happen,” Pang said. “[As athletes], sports are our lives and thinking that it could be taken away, I can’t imagine what they are going through.”
Those from opposing teams are concerned, too. In addition to the “Save the Terps” banners they brought to Thursday’s meet, several teams submitted photos of themselves, holding Terp signs, which are included an a YouTube video on Reardon’s website.
Kirsti Early was at Thursday’s meet to support her son, Tyler, who is a freshman swimmer at North Carolina State University. Early said she was concerned that the loss of the Maryland team could have effects even outside the school.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find schools that aren’t cutting their programs,” Early said. “The kids are starting to think, ‘Gosh, am I just working hard at a young age for nothing? By the time I get to college are there going to be any programs available?’”
Despite the drama outside the pool, the Maryland athletes had to go on with business as usual Thursday.
Bull knew she had to focus, not only for her teammates, but also for Carly.
“I’m going to go up there to have fun and do what I need to do to have a good race,” Bull said. “It’s kids like [Carly] who are looking to us as athletes that makes it important to keep this sport alive. When it comes time for our meet nothing else is going to matter.”