UIC cuts gymnastics team

Meredith Howard, Co-Editor

CHICAGO — Peter Jansson was shocked by an announcement made by the University of Illinois at Chicago in August 2018.

During the first week of school, coaches and gymnasts received an email from UIC administration telling them to meet at 7:30 and 8 respectively at the student activity center the following morning.

The UIC women’s gymnastics team co-head coach learned that morning that the team he’d directed for more than 20 years will be competing for the last time this season.

“Basically we came down there and unceremoniously we were told this is your last season…and so of course it was an absolute shock,” Jansson said.

Gymnastics has been around for 71 years, making it the oldest sport at UIC. The women’s team has won 12 conference titles and qualified to national championships nine times.

“We’ve had NCAA regional gymnast of the year six times. We’ve had NCAA regional coaches of the year five times. This is a program that has been super successful, and with absolute stellar people as student athletes,” Jansson said.

The school cited budget issues as the reason for the cut.

The UIC administration has received over 1,000 emails and phone calls in support of the program, but vocal support may not be enough to save the team.

“Since the announcement, basically all the donors stopped giving money. But, there has been pretty high level talks with donors that are willing to support the program, but of course they’re not gonna support a program if it doesn’t exist,” Jansson said.

This cut leaves only 20 NCAA men’s gymnastics teams still in competition.

Gymnastics is often the first sport that colleges seek to cut in a budget crisis. Reasons for this are debated within the gymnastics community.

Carmen Dillman, a competitive gymnast from Springfield, weighed in on this issue.

“The sport itself is still just as good as it was before these scandals. If our organizations truly care about the sport, they need to be speaking out and showing that our gymnastics community is no longer corrupt,” Dillman said referring to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse controversies surrounding USAG, the main governing body of competitive gymnastics within the U.S.

Jenny McClanahan, a gymnastics club owner, expressed liability concerns as a reason schools may cut programs.

“Skills are getting more and more dangerous and without updated equipment, athletes will get hurt, opening the university up for big lawsuits,” McClanahan said.

Jansson still hopes that the team will pull through. “They’re claiming that they’re still willing to listen to us, and keep the door cracked open as they say. We’re trying to get that door opened a little more.”

Meredith Howard is the co-editor of The Lamp. She also teaches gymnastics and is a competitive gymnast. She can be reached at [email protected]