Men’s athletics should add world’s favorite sport

By Victor

Marshall Morehead led his Stillwater High School Ponies to two straight high school soccer championships, an undefeated 1996 season and received the 1996 Mr. Soccer award honoring the top boys high school player in the state last year. Yet he didn’t receive a single scholarship offer from a Minnesota school.
It’s not that any coach in the state wouldn’t want this prospective soccer star; it’s simply that there is no team for him to play on. For this reason, the University needs to do the unthinkable and consider adding another men’s team to its list of varsity sports.
Of the 21 high school varsity sports that attracted at least 1,200 participants in 1995-96, men’s soccer is the only sport not represented at the varsity level at the University of Minnesota or in the state colleges systems. In fact, ten varsity sports currently sponsored by the University have lower participation rates at the college level than men’s soccer. Most striking is the fact that women’s soccer is recognized but men’s is not. In an age where gender equity is supposed to reign, women’s soccer is a varsity sport at the University and at least seven other state schools in Minnesota.
Many factors are favorable to the development of a men’s soccer program at the University. We would be joining the Big Ten soccer conference which has a proven record of success. Both Indiana and Wisconsin have won national titles in the last 10 years. In addition, because of the groundwork laid down by the formation of the women’s team, playing facilities already exist and administrative structures are in place to hire stadium workers, contract referees and perform field maintenance. The revenue potential for men’s soccer is also high. Both Penn State and Indiana average more than 2,000 fans per home game, and soccer is one of only four sports in which playoffs are a net money maker for the NCAA.
Finally, the greatest resource Minnesota has to offer to a newly formed Division I program is its players. With over 50,000 youth soccer players in the state, a team would have a tremendous base from which to draw players that currently are drawn out of state by college recruiters. (Minnesota has produced at least four Division I men’s All-Americans over the past 10 years.) There is no reason to believe that a men’s team could not follow the success of the women’s team. They only need to rest heavily on attracting the top in-state recruits. Even as a young program, the women’s team has often been ranked in the top 25 and has made the NCAA playoffs each of the last two years. Minnesota’s top male players have the potential to equal their success.
The moratorium on adding men’s sports ends this year, and the University should take a positive step by adding men’s soccer after years of neglecting this great sport. It’s time to finally give players like Marshall the chance to play for their home state.

Matheson is a graduate student in the Department of Economics. He is also a Big Ten Athletic Conference soccer referee.