Contact: Amy Voytilla
February 4, 2004

Macalester Cuts Nordic Ski Program

On Tuesday afternoon the members of the Macalester College Nordic Ski Team were called in to attend an unplanned meeting with our coaches, the athletic director and assistant athletic director. I knew upon entering the room that all was not right with the world and that whatever the athletic director said to us would greatly affect the future of nordic skiing- and athletics in general- at Macalester. Without any prior notice we were informed that a committee had decided to dismantle the cross country ski team as a varsity sport.

Our biggest qualm with this news is the manner in which it was presented to us. I remember the situation with the football team two years ago. Although circumstances were different as to the reason for cutting the program, I would just like to point out that the team was informed before a final decision was made. Community meetings were held. Opinions were heard. People rallied to support their team. Our team was given no such opportunity. The decision has been made. Our team will not belong to the MIAC and NCAA next year.

I am reminded of a very similar thing happening at Carleton, just two years ago. Once a very strong skiing program, they now have a club team consisting of three members and no coach. I fear a similar fate for our team. Now it seems that the loss of the Carleton program was just the beginning of a decline of the MIAC (the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Conference). St. Mary's cut their program last year as well. I fear it is only a matter of time until all the skiing programs of the MIAC fold.

The disbanding of the ski team calls into question Macalester's commitment to quality athletics. I would like to point out the fact that our team is the first to be dismantled since the loss of the men's hockey team in the 1970s. The school and its athletic department have endured occasional economic hardship between then and now without cutting other teams. The solution to eliminate a varsity team was chosen over decreasing the entire department's budget by 5%.

The timing of this announcement is also rather unfortunate. New skiers have been recruited and several of them have already withdrawn their applications as a result of our loss of varsity status. Also, the team is primarily composed of sophomores and freshman who are thinking very seriously about transferring. However, they will have a difficult time of it because many application deadlines have already passed. If I was not graduating, I know that I would very seriously consider leaving Macalester.

The existence of a Nordic Ski Team at Macalester made the school unique among the elite, small liberal arts colleges in the Twin Cities and surrounding area. In fact, Macalester is the only Division III college in an urban setting which supports nordic skiing as a varsity sport in the nation, setting it apart from all other schools. Having grown up in St. Paul, I know just how strong the local skiing community is. I hate the idea of such a thriving nordic skiing community losing the one college in the Twin Cities that offers skiing at the varsity level.

The team is committed to finishing out the season as strongly as we possibly can. While I am racing next weekend I will not be able to ski with the usual sense of calm, meditative focus I usually achieve during my speedy passage through the woods- rather I will be driven on by anger created by this injustice and the desire to obtain glory in the dying moments of our team. I have no doubt that this occurrence has lit a fire in all of us and we will ski with the passion of knowing that we are participating in one of few precious final races.

If you have any opinion on this matter, the ski team would be very grateful if you would make your voice heard. We recommend that you send a letter or make a phone call in support of our program to Macalester's president, Brian Rosenberg, at, 651-696-6207.

Thank you,
Amy Voytilla and the entire Macalester College Nordic Ski Team


Follow-on #1

It has been brought to our attention that the President and administration has been receiving unnecessarily attacking messages. Perhaps we erred in the presentation of the matter. However, we would like to rectify the situation by asking that skiers emphasize the broader impact that cutting the Macalester program has on the ski community in any further correspondence. We do not want to anger the administration any more than they already are. Anger gets nothing accomplished. I understand that this decision has had a very emotional impact on a lot of people, as it has us. However, angry and attacking e-mails and phone calls will not get the program reinstated. We greatly appreciate all of the support you have shown us and hope that further correspondence will be more productive.

Thank you,
Renee Schaefer, Macalester ski team

Follow-on #2


In the 1/29/04 Pioneer Press article on the City of Lakes Loppet, Ahvo Taipale declared, "The Twin Cities area is the biggest cross country skiing market in the United States." Was Ahvo just blowing smoke, or was he unto something?

1) Macalester offered the only college varsity ski team in the Twin Cities. Should the "biggest cross country skiing market in the U.S." tolerate the loss of it's only college varsity team?

2) There is much to protest about how Macalester College reached it's ski team ending decision. In stark contrast to the open deliberative process Macalester used as dropping football was recently considered, the ski team decision was made by a committee behind closed doors. Members of the ski team were given no opportunity for input or to propose alternatives.

3) Why pick on cross country skiing? Of course hard budget decisions are sometimes needed, and academic programs are the main priority of a college. However, any priority rock that can be thrown at the ski team can be thrown at any of Macalester's other athletic teams and programs. Would not a small across-the-board cut in funding for all teams have been fairer?

PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO OFFER YOUR CONCERNS to Macalester president, Brian Rosenberg at: or 651-696-6207

Thanks for your consideration,

Geezer Ski Racer Jim Voytilla