Cycling team consists of UF's true athletes

Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 23, 2003 at 10:20 p.m.

I have been fortunate to know or work with the track, cycling and triathlon teams at the University of Florida. The Sun has done a very good job describing a small part of what is going on at the university.

The football and basketball teams do have athletic scholarships for each member on the team, but many of the other varsity programs do not.

The men's track team has fewer than 12.5 scholarships for a team with nearly five times that many athletes. Many track competitors have academic scholarships, but they are at UF to get an education as well as participate in sports.

As reported, there is a lot of money going into all of the varsity programs, including the $1.3 million for tutoring and other related expenses.

I find it appalling, however, that over $10 million was spent for a training facility for about 30 athletes on the men's and women's basketball teams, and over $50 million to increase the seating capacity at The Swamp.

Anyone with financial knowledge knows that even during the recent economic downturn, investment is still a better risk than the future success of the football team or the continued generosity of its alumnae.

Cost seems to be of no concern regarding varsity programs, but you do not need this kind of money to compete or to win at the conference and national level.

Take, for example, the UF cycling team. None of its athletes are given consideration on admission. All must meet the high standards set by the university.

Through student government, not the athletic department, UF pays less than 10 percent of the total cost of competing. Each student-athlete pays the vast majority of expenses incurred from traveling, race fees and equipment.

Many have had to forgo racing because they could not afford it. Others have taken part-time jobs, on top of training 20 hours a week.

Other athletes, like those on the triathlon team, compete under similar circumstances. Despite these obstacles, many Team Florida members enter medical and graduate school, and are competitive in their undergraduate programs.

They have dominated the SEC as three-time off-road team champions, and as team road champions for six of the last seven years. Since 1997, the team has accumulated three individual national championship jerseys and 16 team podium finishes in national road and velodrome competition.

Team Florida embodies the true spirit of university athletics. It would be nice if the alumnae would support this kind of student-athlete the same as those of the varsity programs.

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