In the midst of collegiate sports being canceled due to COVID-19, Michigan’s boxing and taekwando club teams have found themselves in limbo.
The University of Michigan’s Recreational Sports Department, in collaboration with the office of Risk Management, decided to revoke both teams’ status as a club sport based on audits, forcing them to become Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs).
“Their initial argument is about risk management,” Michigan Boxing Club President Maya Irigoyen said. The Recreational Sports Department did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment in time for publication.
The physicalities of both of these sports were enough to drive the University to take severe action despite the value that the partnerships provide.
Michigan’s taekwondo club — founded in 1964 — is the oldest collegiate taekwondo club and continues to represent the University at the national and international level.
Aside from the success members of the team achieve on each level, they also represent a variety of cultures and communities throughout campus.
“This eclectic mix of people coming from all over the world creates an environment that transcends cultural bounds, commonly held thoughts about who does sports … and an environment who is accepting of all,” taekwando club president Liam Blanchard said. “As much of a cliche as it is, taekwondo is a family.”
The removal of club status would harm its ability to provide the same level of resources to its members.
“All of our practices require practice space, which is largely provided to us at no extra cost through Club Sports,” Blanchard said. “This change would then have us rent all of our space, as many of the free spaces on campus cannot accomodate a group of our size. With the price of insurance, cost of renting space, and our current club funding, this would essentially lead the club into financial ruin.”
The Michigan boxing club plays a similarly positive role to its members. Without sponsorship, the club will also be hampered.
“Losing sponsorship for club boxing would mean we would have to become a voluntary student organization to remain on campus, which is not viable,” boxing club treasurer Michael Zlonkevicz said. “We lose the ability to use any U-M names, logos, or indicia. This will impact our reputation on campus and our ability to fight in collegiate tournaments.”
Added Zlonkevicz: “Losing sponsorship would mean we are no longer able to participate in Giving Blueday. Shrinking a substantial revenue stream for us and likely causing us to raise dues, which no one wants. We would lose U-M insurance coverage as well, adding to our new costs if we were to be a VSO.”
The teams were granted a year extension for the appeal deadline — moving it back to April 1, 2021 — in order to accomodate for the COVID-19 crisis.
The decision has not been made final, and both teams continue to put together appeals in an attempt to regain their club status.
“We have been working on our appeal,” Irigoyen said. “We’ve been … citing a bunch of rules from the rulebook that establish what the safety precautions are. … We’ve been getting personal statements, reaching out to alumni, current members, other schools just to show the impact that this would have.”
The efforts to petition are ongoing, and diverse. Alumni and even other teams from other schools have offered assistance, as well.
“In light of our decision, boxing clubs from Ohio State, Wisconsin and Georgetown have written letters speaking on our impact in the sport and how boxing has impacted their campus communities,” Zlonkevicz said.
Added Irigoyen: “It is just a very frustrating thing when it feels like the school, who is supposed to be sponsoring a team who has won them many championships and who represents the school very well … are just coming after us to get rid of us.”