UMass Dartmouth rocked the Corsairs community to the core on July 1 when the Department of Athletics and Recreation announced eight intercollegiate athletic programs would be discontinued. Men’s golf, men’s lacrosse, women’s equestrian, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, co-ed sailing, and men’s and women’s tennis will no longer be offered as varsity sports at UMass Dartmouth, sidelining 94 student-athletes. Players found out about the cuts in an email.
Among the players still coping with the university’s decision are four Tri-Town area natives: Mattapoisett’s Alexander le Gassick(men’s golf) and Sean Nutter (men’s tennis), as well as Marion’s Nick Rego (men’s lacrosse) and Bailey Sweet (sailing).
“I actually logged onto social media and I found out that way, though friends’ (Instagram) stories,” Rego said. “I didn’t even notice the mail, really. Then I went on to read the email after, and it was just crazy to see in the email.”
Oddly enough, Nutter was on a tennis court when he found out.
“I was getting ready to play with my buddy and I had my phone in my pocket, I was getting ready to play and stuff,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, my phone keeps ringing and ringing and ringing, and I see who it is. My boys were saying, ‘You see what happened?’ and ‘This is ridiculous.’ We had no warning, had no one that gave even an indication that this could happen. I check my UMass email and, sure thing, they cut (men’s) tennis, along with seven other programs.”
The abrupt nature of UMass Dartmouth’s decision was unsettling to the affected students, but there’s another element that didn’t sit right with Rego.
“In the email, it said something about how this was a move to kind of support other teams and help allocate assets to them,” he said. “Which I found sort of weird in a way, to say that some teams that were a little more important than others. I thought that everyone was happy with their experiences… The facilities could use a little bit of love, you could say. But it definitely isn’t something that nobody’s happy with. We have a beautiful turf field. We have a great staff group, as far as our team goes. I’m not sure about others, but I always hear great things. Everyone’s happy that they get to go and compete. It’s heartbreaking to have a bunch of teams and friends on other teams that aren’t going to get a chance to compete anymore.
“It seems like there was no rhyme or reason, and it’s kind of confusing to me and a lot of my friends. It was a thing where — it was kind of a last-minute decision. They said they were planning to (cut those sports), but no one ever said anything. At other colleges, I’ve heard of teams being required to do fundraising and stuff like that to help their costs. We didn’t get any warning that this was going to happen until it happened.
“We didn’t know that we were underfunded or anything like that, or that they were planning on changing things ahead of time. It just kind of hit us in the face, and we were left to pick it up when we found out. There was no way that we could have gathered a fundraising effort or done anything to help our cause.”
Rego was also caught off-guard by UMass Dartmouth disclosing “this process before COVID-19 and is in no way related to the current health crisis.”
Nutter already had doubts about the school year and the spring of 2021 before the announcement, having already lost his junior year to the pandemic. But he didn’t expect to lose his senior year to cancellations that, according to the university, had nothing to do with the pandemic.
“Of course, I was shocked. I was taken aback,” Nutter said. “I was a little frustrated and disappointed. And I think I went immediately (thinking), ‘What are my teammates going to do?’ All the uncertainty for me going into my senior season. I was ready, obviously, for budgets being cut short by COVID. Then I thought about all my buddies who I dorm with at UMass, all of us seniors getting to our final season, and now we won’t have a final UMass season. That’s really disappointing.
“After that, I thought about all the freshmen. They’re going to miss out on the experience that I had: being so close to home, having a good coach like Karsten (Rathlev) who’s such a good guy, knows the sport so well and is young enough so he can relate to us and relate to what we can go through every day as a student-athlete there. Now their tennis futures are up in the air, and I feel so bad because UMass was such a good option for them, and now who knows what’s going to happen to all those guys?”
Rego and Nutter intend to finish their academic careers at UMass Dartmouth, despite these changes. However, this doesn’t mean their athletic careers are over as both are planning to go to graduate school, where they hope to use their final year of eligibility in their respective sports.
“This (experience) has brought about a feeling, a yearning of playing another season of competitive tennis at the college level and, hopefully — who knows what I’ll do — but hopefully I’ll be able to play at least one more year in grad school, if time and (a) program permits it,” Nutter said.
By Nick Friar