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Archive for December 1, 2006

Dec. 1, 2006 — UMBC field hockey ceases to exist — again.

The University of Maryland at Baltimore County field hockey program, after six years as a Division I varsity team, has been terminated, and an on-line petition has sprung up to save the program.

It’s quite a contrast from the optimism that had surrounded the team and the program a few years ago when the Catonsville campus was tagged as a possible field hockey venue in the Washington/Baltimore/Northern Virginia effort to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the United States.

It seemed almost too easy, since not a lot had to be built. Existing football stadiums, baseball parks, large indoor arenas and smaller auditoriums could have hosted everything from soccer to baseball to basketball to fencing.

About all that had to be done was to make an artificial rapids pool for kayak slalom, and build a new track and field stadium at the site of RFK Stadium, one which would likely have been downsized for use by D.C. United. And there would have been improvements at UMBC Stadium. New locker rooms, new turf (perhaps with water cannons), new stands, and other amenities would have been part of a sizable upgrade.

But Washington did not make the first cut after presentations to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Eventually, the USOC chose New York — which fell in the second ballot of International Olympic Committee voting in July 2005.

No renovations. And now, no team.

The history of field hockey at UMBC goes all the way back to 1977, when the Retrievers were an AIAW Division II program. Then, when the NCAA took on the sanctioning of field hockey in 1982, UMBC had its first winning record, going 10-6-2.

It has had one winning season since. It wasn’t for lack of trying, since the team did have a fine 2002 season, going 6-10 in the Northeast Conference. But since the following year, after a move to the America East Conference, UMBC has had a grand total of 10 victories in four seasons. In the 2006 RPI rankings, the Retrievers were third from bottom.

The wins and losses do not reflect how hard Retriever players and coaches have worked over the years. As is usual in these situations, no matter what the sport, you have to feel for the 14 student-athletes who no longer have an opportunity to play.