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Sports: Cuts leave college-bound athletes on the sidelines

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Taylor King sat alone on the sideline last week, the loss in the Lower State soccer final as hard as the concrete stadium bench. Disappointed by Waccamaw High’s 1-0 loss that ended his high school career, he could still get excited about returning to the goal in the fall at USC-Sumter.

“I’m looking forward to that,” he said.

But the consolation was short-lived.

Two days later, King learned that the University of South Carolina at Sumter cut its soccer and basketball programs.

King, the Waccamaw goalkeeper, signed with the Fire Ants in January. Sam Mauney, a defender, signed just two weeks ago.

“It was a huge hit,” King said. “It was very surprising. I had signed a while ago. Even in my worst case scenario, I never expected something like this. I had my heart set on going to Sumter.”

The timing of the decision has made it difficult for King and Mauney to pursue other options. Most colleges already have their rosters set, leaving walking on as the most viable choice for players at this time of the year.

“I’m working on a couple of things,” said King, who is looking at possibilities with Lees-McRae College in North Carolina and USC-Salkehatchie. “Being involved with that is helping me get over what happened with Sumter. Having some choices has boosted my confidence.”

Mauney is considering Lander University and may not play soccer.

Parents Chris King and Deana Mauney aren’t placing any blame on Otis Holloway, who was named men’s soccer coach at USC-Sumter last year, and both have an understanding of the economic realities related to the situation.

However, both believe the idea of cutting the soccer program is something that has been discussed for a while and that players should have been notified about the possibility much sooner.

“I feel like somebody knew well in advance that this was a possibility,” said Chris King. “They shouldn’t have waited until May to announce what they were doing. There should have been some kind of communication with the players they had signed. They left them with few options at the this point.”

“Something should have been said much sooner,” Deana Mauney said. “All of the players they had signed are scrambling now to find a school. A lot of kids have been displaced by this.”

Bruce Blumber, the associate dean and athletics director at USC-Sumter, said the decision to eliminate the programs came from outside the campus and caught everyone involved off guard.

“It came as a total shock to the coaches and myself,” Blumberg said. “The decision was not made by anyone on [our] campus; it came from higher up in Columbia. We are under an extreme budget crises and facing a complete reorganization that is affecting faculty, coaches, staff and especially our students.

“I have 100 percent sympathy for the players who have been affected by this. If I could give them more than that, I would.”

Making the issue even more problematic are the costs associated with a college education. Students who expected scholarships now are looking at thousands of dollars in expenses.

“We’re lucky because I’ve been saving for college,” said Chris King, a guidance counselor at Waccamaw High. “But everyone may not have that luxury. Applying and being accepted to college is a process. Some of the players are going to have to start all over again.”

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