Administrators spike men’s volleyball

Chrissy Zehrbach
Editor in Chief

Effective June 24, the prominent Division III men’s volleyball team at the University of La Verne was discontinued due to budgetary cutbacks within the athletic department.

The announcement came roughly three weeks after the end of spring classes and was made much to the surprise of the University community and even the team itself.

“The timing was really underhanded,” head coach Morgan Coberly said. “When you cut a program that affects students during the summer, that doesn’t give them a chance to transfer. None of these guys would have been at La Verne if it weren’t for volleyball. To them it’s a big deal.”

The team was expected to have 22 players this year. But as a result of this decision, those recruited to enter this year did not enroll and others have either not returned to ULV or plan to transfer.

“Volleyball was the biggest reason I came to La Verne,” said junior Matt Cornell, who is transferring to University of the Pacific at the end of the semester. “I have two years of eligibility left and I wanted to keep playing. I don’t want to be at a school that didn’t want me there.”

Five seniors on the team feel the disappointment of not being allowed to finish their collegiate career with a senior season.

“I invest three years in a University and make it my home and then the athletic department disowns our program,” said senior Mark Mimms, a three-year player.

Athletic Director Chris Ragsdale made the recommendation to President Stephen Morgan that the men’s volleyball program be cut following an internal look at all the athletic programs.

“The entire coaching staff was informed of the cuts and that this would have significant impact,” Ragsdale said.

But Coberly said he was never notified that his program was in jeopardy.

Ragsdale said the department looked at different alternatives and eliminating the men’s volleyball program was the solution for many reasons.

“When you look at our budget and what our budget means to our program, I did not believe we could sustain the quality or maintain the integrity of the program that we desire to have with those cuts in a 20-sport program,” Ragsdale said. “Reality is we can’t spend money we don’t have.”

Some items in the budget could not be cut because they are fixed costs. Items such as officials, uniforms, equipment and travel costs such as meals and lodging could not be cut, so the department had to look elsewhere.

In the review process, Ragsdale looked into the mission statement of the athletic department. He said when faced with difficult decisions it is necessary to look back at who you say you are as an institution.

Tenet one of the mission statement reads: “We believe that the athletic department should support students in their efforts to reach a high level of performance by providing them with facilities, equipment, competent staff and competitive opportunities commensurate with the SCIAC and similar NCAA Division III institutions.”

The men’s volleyball team was the only ULV program that did not compete in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. And as one of only two Division III programs on the West Coast, the team had to compete mainly against Division I and II institutions.

“They see it as a negative but I always saw it as a cool thing,” Coberly said. “Competing against Division I should be something that’s embraced, not looked down upon. They’re looking at the SCIAC picture, not the national picture.”

“It’s about what the students want,” he said. “To take away something the students want without a solid reason is pretty sad. The school should be committed to students first and foremost.”

Trying to salvage the program, a letter was distributed June 28 from the coaches, alumni and players of the team stating that the coaches would go without pay for the season and the team would fundraise the rest of the expenses.

Coberly said a typical season costs $23,000. He said he received an amazing response from faculty and friends, people he did not even know, who were willing to donate and even give up part of their salary. “They said it was a money issue, but our program is nothing to fund,” Coberly said. “We could have fundraised two seasons easily. There’s obviously a different agenda than what they’re telling people.” Ragsdale said even if the team were to pay for this year, the same issue would arise in 12 months. “We had to be more broad reaching, not just a one time circumstance,” he said.

A forum was held July 7 for anyone to voice opinions and concerns to the administration. Players, coaches, alumni, family, faculty and community members attended.

“It was the most inspirational thing I’ve ever been at because we had so much support,” Coberly said.

“There were a number of people who spoke on behalf of the men’s volleyball program and the benefits these young men received in their participation,” Ragsdale said. “We took every opportunity to gain and learn as much information as we could and look at the situation from all aspects.”

On July 14 a final decision was issued. The University upheld its decision to drop the program. Coberly thought he would be the first to know. He said he did not receive a call. Instead he received a copy of the letter that had been issued, after word had already circulated. But he had already heard the news from his players and alumni.

“I feel like we’ve done all we can,” Coberly said. “I loved my La Verne experience. I played and coached here and sacrificed a lot. Higher up they don’t have the commitment.”

“There’s only so much you can fight it,” he said. “They said they’d listen and they didn’t. They’d have to be heartless. There were some cool things said by all – it was awesome.”

Chrissy Zehrbach can be reached at

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