News spread like wildfire throughout W&J’s campus and the local community as it was announced last week that both the men and women’s water polo teams were being demoted from a Division III sports team to club level.
The men’s water polo team finished this season with an overall record of 12-13 as they competed against highly prestigious water polo teams. Patrick Fredrick led the team in goals with 85 goals, with Nick Willison following behind with 63 goals.
The women’s team finished their season with an overall record of 16-6, finishing second place in the CWPA Division Three Championship. The women’s team was able to finish with one of the best seasons in the program’s history.
The news did not sit well with the students, as everyone from both the men’s and women’s teams were outraged and asked for support from the entire W&J student body and the local community.
To see our community and beyond come together for something that might not directly affect them is amazing.
Water polo player, Liz Klock (Class of ’18), wanted to show the Department of Athletics and administration how important water polo is to the W&J community and created a petition in order to save the program. In less than 24 hours, the petition had almost 2,000 signatures.
“I have never been so touched in my entire life. To see our community and beyond come together for something that might not directly affect them is amazing. I think it shows the [type] of people we have at this college- authentic, good people who really do have uncommon integrity. I am so thankful for everyone who took part in this,” said Klock.
The students voiced their opinions until both the Department of Athletics and the administration heard them, which worked as they decided to revoke their decision and let the water polo teams keep their Division III status for the next four years.
However, water polo player Madison Nervig (Class of ’17) appreciates the most recent decision made, but also realizes the water polo program is only safe for four more years.
“We are very disappointed in the decision that was made to demote the water polo program to club. Although, we appreciate their most recent efforts to continue the program for four more years, but we know that this cap in our varsity program will result in the death of our club program, as would club status. We are willing and ready to meet with the administration in order to talk about the best course of action for the future and provide solutions to their concerns,” said Nervig.
The initial decision was made to change the water polo teams from Division III status to club level because the Department of Athletics, after conducting thorough research, felt that the CWPA collegiate club level was thriving. Competing at a club level would give both teams the opportunity to compete for regional and national championships, which the teams could not have done previously.
Water polo is the only sport that W&J offers that the NCAA does not sponsor a Division Three National Championship. The club level features around 150 men’s programs and 85 women’s programs, and the Department of Athletics felt that both teams have a strong chance at winning these titles.
Despite their initial views, the Department of Athletics and administration felt the best decision, for now, would be to keep the water polo team as Division III for the next four years, at least until they can find a better solution. President of W&J, Tori Haring-Smith, wants to make it clear to all athletes, especially the water polo players, that the college’s commitment to the sport isn’t changing. Instead, the Department of Athletics and administration would like to sit down and talk about how to better the program.