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Multiple issues hinder UNT men’s soccer program
Will Darnell / Intern
There are more than 450,000 National Collegiate Athletic Association student athletes, and more than 2,000 of those athletes compete in the 202 NCAA Division I men’s soccer programs. Less than 50 compete at a university in Texas, and none compete at UNT.
A discrepancy exists between the number of Division I Texas universities and the number of Division I Texas universities with men’s soccer teams. According to the NCAA, there are 21 Texas universities competing in Division I sports and only two field men’s soccer teams. Of those same 21 universities, 12 field football teams. In comparison, each NCAA Division I football team is allowed 85 full scholarships per year, enough to field more than seven soccer teams.
Identifying the cause of this discrepancy can be a complex task. A combination of the NCAA, Title IX, money, football and the lack of regional rivals have been cited as culprits.
In addition to NCAA scholarship policies that limit the total number of men’s soccer scholarships to 9.9 and Title IX compliance, UNT has other concerns that make it infeasible to add men’s soccer.
“In order to be fiscally possible, the ability to play local or regional teams for a large portion of the schedule is very important,” Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said.
Traditional athletic powerhouses like Indiana, Michigan, UCLA, North Carolina and Maryland are able to field men’s soccer teams and still maintain NCAA and Title IX compliance based on financial success.
Villarreal said that many top schools have budgets over $55 million, while UNT operates around $25 million.
“That $30 million difference could change a lot of things,” he said.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, UNT could remain compliant with Title IX while also adding men’s programs by diverting funds dedicated to football to smaller sports, like soccer and baseball.
“Allocating funds to sport programs existing and new is an institutional choice,” said DeJuena Chizer, Associate Athletic Director at the University of Houston. “Unfortunately, budgets play a major factor in those choices.”
Due to the small number of Division I programs in the area, UNT soccer could compete on a national level.
Scott Heffley, the boys’ head soccer coach at Denton High School, believes the Dallas Metroplex has the requisite talent pool to support more Division I soccer teams.
“Because the number of opportunities to play at a D1 school for males is so limited, the competition for those very few spots is extremely competitive,” Heffley said. “Consequently, there are just not as many opportunities to play at the D1 level as there are qualified athletes.”
According to the results of a recent ESPN poll, soccer is now the second-most popular sport for Americans 12-24 years old. With those figures in mind, 19 of the 21 Division I universities in Texas consciously decline to maintain men’s soccer teams.