When Chicago State baseball played Louisville March 11th, no one on the team imagined it would be their last game at the school.
“Absolutely not,” said Chicago State junior outfielder Reggie Brock Jr. “I thought I would graduate here and continue my baseball career and of course follow my father’s footsteps.”
Reggie Brock’s dad Reggie Brock Sr., a CSU alum drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1987, helped organize Tuesday’s event on campus, gathering players and alumni to discuss what they view as a mishandled process by the university leading up to the Board of Trustees vote last week to eliminate the school’s baseball team and replace it with men’s soccer.
“Why did so many calls, emails and other means of correspondence go unanswered?” Brock Sr. asked. “Did anyone consider the lives of players and families impacted? The answer is no. We suspect someone on campus had it in for baseball team and executed this heinous act.”
A month after the school fired head coach Steve Josyln in May, the team had to learn via Twitter their entire program was on the chopping block. Then three days before the Board of Trustees formal vote, players received emails informing them their scholarships were not renewed. The school has since reversed that decision, but the process did not sit well with players and staff.
“Unprofessional,” Brock Jr. called it. “We have kids from all over the country so it’s not easy for us to find a home to play baseball. Not a lot of kids can find scholarships at other schools.”
Associate head coach David Harden says since the board’s vote, “I’ve heard nothing from the administration. I don’t appreciate it.”
In their decision to end the program, the CSU Board of Trustees and Director of Athletics Elliott Charles cited a $500,000 annual cost and the team’s underperformance. Players, coaches, and advocates say they were not consulted about finding ways to raise money or cut costs and believe they were unfairly singled out for their team’s poor record.
“I was offended,” Harden said when he learned of the school using the team’s record as one of the reasons for the cut. “If you are going to use that as reasoning, then I guess, if we are talking about competition at Chicago state then we shouldn’t have athletics.”
“How do you egregiously make the baseball team the fall guy without exploring more sensical solutions when all teams struggle to win? Why was baseball targeted?” Brock Sr. wondered.
A university spokeswoman did not make AD Charles available for comment, instead referring WGN to Chicago State Athletics previously published press release. In the statement, Charles said “The decision was one we didn’t arrive at lightly. We are working diligently to support our student athletes during this change.”
Supporters plan to continue fighting for the program, suggesting economic solutions that include finding an alternative conference to play in than the WAC to reduce travel costs, cutting some scholarships or raising money within the community. But after 55 years of Cougar baseball, they’re left wondering why the school wouldn’t go to bat for them.