CC alumni express anger on behalf of former football players
by Amy Steinhoff, guest writer; illustration by Kate Aitchison, guest artist
A six-generation legacy at Colorado College is officially over this fall, as the beginning of the 2009 year marked the first football season without football. It’s hard to say who’s taking the transition the hardest—this year’s seniors who had their last season stolen from them, the underclassmen who transferred to other colleges, or the freshman recruits who committed to a program that ended for them before it began. Surprisingly, it seems that those who harbor the strongest feelings months after the decision are those who have been least tangibly affected—the alumni.
Ross Alisiani, of the class of 2007, says the cut of the CC football program completely changed his view of the college as a whole and his experience as a student. Alisiani says, “I was the biggest CC supporter of anyone alive. I used to say the best decision I made in my life was coming [to CC], but now it’s completely different. I’d never give money without football—there’s no reason to keep ties.”
Alisiani goes on to confess an enduring frustration, even months after the administration announced its decision to cut the football team. He says, “I guess ‘time heals everything,’ but when you bring it back up I get fired up again…I feel helpless.”
Jerry DiMarco, class of 1974, who has been active in the effort to bring back the program, suggests that the decision to cancel football hints at negative changes in the institution’s focus. “The administration,” he complains, “appears to have a callous disregard of their duty to honor CC’s history and preserve its traditions.” Suggesting that there are greater motives at play, he continues, “What stuns me is how the diversity of the student population has narrowed, causing the college to lose its identity and abandon some of its time-honored traditions. Do we want CC to be a clone of some eastern college, or do we want CC to stay uniquely CC?”
DiMarco thinks the biggest injustice was handed to this year’s seniors: “To have the rug pulled out from under you in your final year is heartless. They have taken away something that cannot be replaced. It leaves in you an empty hole that will never be filled.” The seniors themselves, though, don’t seem to be as angry as they are disappointed and exasperated. Senior David Mauro laments, “We had worked a long time, we’ve all been playing for ten years or longer. We had lots to work up to this next year . . . ending a football career on an 0-9 season is just so frustrating.”
When Mauro found out about the cut, he was on his semester abroad in Chile. Without anyone around to understand the gravity of what had happened, he tried to explain the situation to his host family: “I was like, ‘My fútbol Americano team!’ and they were like, ‘Oh, sorry’ . . . It was so strange to find out without anyone to talk to.” Mauro considered transferring schools for a while, talking to prospective coaches over Skype, but eventually decided that transferring for one semester of his senior year didn’t make sense either credit-wise or socially.
With his extra time, Mauro is brushing up on his Spanish and enjoying his senior fall with the other ex-football players that stuck around. Mauro feels especially bad for the kids who were recruited for a football program that ended before they arrived on campus. “Football makes your freshman year transition a lot easier,” he says.
Senior Sean Farrell also decided against transferring—switching to a new school for one semester and transferring back to CC in the spring to graduate would have been, in Farrell’s words, “a weird experience.” Farrell is now playing rugby with a few of the other ex-football players but insists that there’s definitely still “a void” in his life this fall. “I guess I focus more on school now, but I don’t really know what to do with myself a lot. I don’t regret coming to CC at all—it’s just that my opinion of the school has changed.”
Sophomore Chris Jarmon loves football so much that he started a blog about his experience playing Division III at CC. Dotted with ads and readers’ comments, Jarmon’s public e-diary has obviously gained a following, if not for his eloquent writing style, then for the dramatic story of his football career. His blog entries include accounts of his preseason training and excitement in the summer of ’08, as well as his first season with the Tigers, nervous speculation about budget cuts, his shock after CC cut its football program, and a chronicle of his transfer to Grinnell College. These entries make up the best-documented story of a personal struggle dealing with post-football life.
The blog has helped Jarmon work through a series of emotions based on the feeling that what he had was taken from him. Jarmon explains, “I really like CC—the block plan, the guys, the social scene. Being forced out of a situation that I was really happy to be in left some marks on me psychologically . . . I still feel a bit of anger every day.”
His initial analysis of his transition to Grinnell is positive, though. “It’s been as good as I could have hoped,” he says. “The guys are as accepting as they were at CC.” Reflecting on how the transition might be for his former teammates, he speculates that the adjustment is inherently hard for this year’s seniors, but adds that the alumni might be taking it the hardest. “A tradition they were a part of was cut without their input, without their effort to preserve it,” he says. “They feel like they were even less in control than we were.”
Jarmon, whose hobby is analyzing the development and politics of Division III football on his one-of-a-kind blog, concludes, “I really think they [alumni] might be the most upset.” This intensity has made the alumni a huge force behind mobilizing the effort to revive CC football, a prospect that the administration says is at least three years away from initial considerations. “The alumni have morphed this into their own little agenda,” Jarmon says.
While Alisiani believes that the goal is still to bring back football in the long run, he says that the problem is the lack of similar enthusiasm that fueled the “Save CC Football” campaign last spring. “The momentum is lost for a campaign in the long run . . . I mean, what do you do on a day to day basis?” For now, as former players adjust to life without the game, alumni face the reality of an alma mater without a legacy that they helped define. ~