When Yates Murphy was 12 years old and playing for the Black Bear United soccer club, he wrote a letter to University of Maine president Dr. Peter Hoff urging him to save the men’s soccer program.
It was 2002 and school officials were considering cutting the program, but it was saved.
Murphy and his teammates were encouraged to write the letter by M.J. Ball, a Black Bear United administrator, and Travers Evans, who coached Black Bear United and the University of Maine’s soccer team.
Murphy wrote he was looking forward to playing soccer at UMaine some day.
Hoff quickly wrote back to the youngster, thanking him for his concern and outlining the difficult financial situation.
He wrote that the athletic department’s annual expenditures will exceed its budget by half a million dollars each year unless changes were made.
“I believe it will be possible to get the athletic department’s expenditures in balance with its revenues while, at the same time, enhancing the opportunity for young Maine athletes to get a chance to compete during their college years. Please bear with us while we develop our plan to achieve this goal,” wrote Hoff.
Murphy became a star at Belfast High School and realized his dream this past season by joining the University of Maine’s program. He was a redshirt and didn’t play in any games but said he made a “lot of strides” practicing with the team and was looking forward to playing in the fall.
Sadly, the university suspended the men’s soccer and women’s volleyball team last week, and returning and incoming players are looking for new schools.
Murphy is deeply disappointed.
The state won’t have a Division I men’s soccer program and he said “I feel that will be detrimental to the state’s future in soccer. It will be tough not having a program for young children to aspire to. ”
He will have to scramble to find another school, but he is more concerned about teammates like Marc Goulet, a junior midfielder.
“He’s having a tough time finding a school that will let him play at the highest possible level and allow him to graduate on time. It’s really tough on him,” said Murphy, who is understandably irritated with the timing of the announcement.
He is also upset they weren’t given an opportunity to try to save the program, saying “maybe somebody would have come forward with a grant.”
Adding to his disappointment is the fact he feels the program is headed “in the right direction” after winning five games last fall, matching the win total of the previous three seasons combined.
Cutting programs is devastating, but not unexpected during a deep recession.
The university is honoring scholarships and will honor incoming players’ scholarships for one year.
The men’s soccer program, which began in 1963, has always been heavily under-funded. Until the last few years, when their scholarships were elevated to 6.5 as mandated by America East, the Bears never had more than 2.5 scholarships in a sport that allows 9.9.
Even though they haven’t had a winning season in 13 years due to their financial limitations, they kept games competitive through their work ethic and defensive focus.
The two programs were valuable and the players served as good ambassadors for the university. They were active in the community.
It is highly unlikely, but I hope both programs resurface at Maine and the Yates Murphys of the world have something to aspire to again.