Aaron Bolton coudn’t believe it when he heard the news.
The current Kishwaukee College freshman and former Indian Creek soccer standout received a text message Thursday from his coach that the Kishwaukee men’s soccer program had been suspended as a way to cut the school’s budget.
At a team meeting the same day in the college gym, athletic director Karen Wiley confirmed what had happened.
“We all just looked at each other like it was a joke,” Bolton said. “We were all just in shock. This came out of nowhere.”
The move to suspend the soccer team was finalized at a Nov. 12 Board of Trustees meeting. Before the meeting, Sedgwick Harris, Kish’s vice president of student services, issued a memorandum for the suspension of the men’s soccer team.
“Over the past several months I have been reviewing the idea of suspending some of the current athletic teams here at Kishwaukee College,” the memo written by Harris states. “After much research, I believe that suspending only one of the current teams is appropriate at this time. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the men’s soccer team for a period of five years, or until the college can reasonably afford to reinstitute this team.”
Harris, who started in January 2013, said the issue of trying to make cuts was handed to him right away and he said he consulted with Wiley.
Kevin Bickley, in his third season as coach, said he was blindsided and the men’s soccer program deserved a chance to make its own budget cuts or other adjustments before a complete suspension of the program.
“We never got the opportunity,” Bickley said.
According to Harris’ memo, the program costs the college about $60,000 a year to operate, with $31,000 of that being tuition waivers.
Harris said he wanted $25,000 of the $60,0000 being saved to be used to increase coaches’ salaries to make Kishwaukee more competitive with other conference schools. Harris also recommended honoring the tuition waivers for the 13 freshmen in the program.
Harris also noted that the college would like to bring the program back by 2018 with a new coach. Competition could begin again by 2019. He also did not rule out a possibility of soccer returning earlier, but that would require more state funding, which hasn’t changed since 2001.
Bolton said he likely wouldn’t have attended Kishwaukee without the soccer program. Even with his tuition waiver remaining, he is looking at going somewhere else and will be attending a prospect camp at North Central College soon.
“I don’t plan on staying at Kish. They didn’t really give us answers. They haven’t told us why,” Bolton said. “They haven’t cut any other program or told us why specifially soccer, why it was us.”
• Ross Jacobson contributed to this story.