Did you know DU is in the middle of its spring men’s soccer season? Of course you didn’t – aside from passionate parents or Denver locals who happen to be walking by Pioneer Field, the team is playing meaningless games against largely obscure programs because spring games are nothing more than exhibitions. Denver does not even post the scores of these matches on the athletics website. All this while soccer US soccer academies are sprouting up around the country and developing young players who receive 8-10 months of development.
This spring, DU men’s soccer will incur many of the same costs of ‘real matches’ in empty stadiums. They already played the Colorado Rapids 2 in Commerce City and D2 Metro State and Colorado School of Mines at Pioneer Field. They ventured to Colorado Springs to play Air Force and D2 UCCS. This upcoming Saturday, Denver plays UCLA in LA before the spring season is quietly put to rest.
Soccer fans have little to no interest in watching meaningless matches insofar as they don’t count towards anything. They’re nothing more than the college equivalent of international friendlies. And likely, student-athletes see little value in these matches as well. Fans will have to wait until late fall, freezing weather, and a compressed soccer season with multiple games during many weeks for meaningful conference games. Additionally, research revealed that multiple games per week increased the number of serious injuries to student-athletes while not allowing adequate recovery time.
Most exceptional high school soccer players will flee to soccer academies to develop their skills while bypassing collegiate soccer. And who could blame them?
As cited previously, we at LetGoDU fully supported extending the current fall soccer season into the spring. The proposal would have consisted of thirteen games in the fall with a pause around Thanksgiving before picking back up in the spring with nine more matches before the postseason. They would end up playing a similar number of matches as their currently configured fall soccer season. The College Cup would fall between lacrosse’s Championship Weekend during Memorial Day and baseball’s College World Series. The split season would have put playoffs and the championship in spring weather – a solution to low-attended Cups in inclement fall conditions – and allow a week break between the semifinals and final instead of the current one-day rest.
Unfortunately, the NCAA shot down the 21st Century Model after last season. While the model was favored by college soccer coaches, the NCAA rejected the move. In other words, the move made sense for every single stakeholder so naturally, the NCAA said no. Cindy Potter, President, and Doug Vance, Executive Director, on behalf of the CoSIDA Executive Board of Directors, used a survey to justify their decision:
The following are key findings from this survey with member institutions:
- 73% indicated the addition of a spring sport would be difficult for their staff or would not be possible without additional staff
- 70% of respondents from Autonomy 5 institutions said they could not support this change without additional staffing, indicating this change is not only an issue for understaffed low- and mid-major schools
- 15% said it would be possible to support an additional spring sport but would require significant restructuring of their responsibilities
- 99% of our members surveyed say they have received no direction from their athletic director or supervisor about how they would manage such a change
Our members nearly unanimously report the college athletics industry is facing a crisis with employee burnout and mental health, and the stresses of a change like this, without proper changes in support, will add to those issues.
Communications staff join colleagues in other departments such as athletic training in expressing the need for more support to make a career in athletics sustainable. This feels like a step in the opposite direction without guaranteed additional resources. Our members experienced unique and difficult season overlaps during the recent pandemic and this proposal would exacerbate the issue. Our members have additional concerns that, if passed, this proposal would lead to other divisions and/or women’s soccer and other fall or spring sports wanting to transition to a two-semester model.
What does this mean for college soccer? Serious soccer players will be attending academies in the US in lieu of playing on collegiate soccer teams. This will force US collegiate teams to bring in more foreign players who could not make their own homeland academies. Collegiate players will be idle eight months of the year and potentially face more injuries and poor quality of play during a condensed fall soccer season.
Soccer fans are left in the cold. Literally.