Citing “deliberate contact with the head”, University of Michigan revokes sponsorship of club boxing
ANN ARBOR, MI – Allie Grenon, Mike Zlonkevicz and other members of the University of Michigan club’s boxing program spent all day Jan. 16 moving heavy bags, mats and other equipment out of their space at the Sports Coliseum, a campus used by club and intramural sports teams.
After a months-long appeal, the club was informed in November that the university would no longer sponsor it “due to the nature of the sport and the frequency and strength of the intentional contact with the leader of the participants involved,” according to decision letter signed by Mike Widen, UM Recreational Sports Director.
It was a knockout blow for everyone involved, but especially for Grenon, who started with the program in 2015 and won national championships in his junior and senior years. She is a double national champion and graduated from UM with a license and a master’s degree.
“Honestly, I spent more time in this gym than in any classroom for any of my degrees,” Grenon said. “I wouldn’t have graduated from UM, not once, let alone twice, if I hadn’t been involved in the program.”
The club were told on March 11 that the university would no longer sponsor it – on the same day, UM canceled classes and began the transition to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sponsorship means that the university takes responsibility for the impact of an activity on the people who participate in it, the letter from the university says. It was determined that boxing club sponsorship should be discontinued because “the nature of the sport of boxing does not allow for the control or elimination of intentional contact with a participant’s head,” the letter said.
A deadline to appeal the decision was initially set for April 10 and then extended until October, Zlonkevicz said. The club’s boxing program submitted a 62-page appeal brief that included information about the club, safety measures taken during competition and the club’s impact on campus, Grenon said.
In its decision, the university used a “club sporting risk matrix,” which measured each club based on the impact between participants, Grenon said. Boxing was rated as having the highest risk of all club sports reviewed.
The club were given a January 22 deadline to have all of their equipment moved out of space, Zlonkevicz said.
“We tried to show them in the call that studies have shown that amateur boxing is no more dangerous than rugby or any other sport,” said Zlonkevicz, UM 2020 graduate. “They have when even decided that because there is contact with the head, there is a risk of head trauma, and because there is this risk, we can no longer sponsor you. “
Protective gear, including a helmet, mouth guards and protective caps, is required for all contact bouts, according to the club’s appeal record. Sparring is not allowed without the supervision of a trainer, and coaches intervene immediately if a boxer is overpowered by his sparring mate, the information packet says.
The UM club boxing program had two teams: an “A” team for competitions against other universities and a “B” team for those who wanted to learn the sport. Each team had around 40 members last year, according to coach Tony Sensoli, who was with the program in the 1980s and has been a volunteer coach for 31 years.
Although the club are talking about boxing, it has a much bigger impact, Sensoli said. It can help students find a group of friends, work on their discipline and give them something of their own, he said, adding that it can have life impacts as well.
“At the end of each year, the team members come to me and say, ‘The reason I stayed in school was boxing’ or, ‘I was depressed, but what made me feel bad? kept it going, it’s the relationships, the foundations and everything that boxing has provided for me, ”Sensoli said. “I think we save the lives of kids with this and then college takes it all away for no real data or reason.”
In its appeal decision, the university said it recognizes the benefits associated with being part of a team and the development of students that occur as members of a student organization.
The boxing club can still apply for volunteer student organization status, the appeal letter says. VSOs cannot use “the University of Michigan” or any other derivation on behalf of their organization, and they are not covered by university insurance, according to the statutes of UM student organizations. website.
Grenon, Zlonkevicz and Sensoli have said they plan to sue the club to some extent. The hardest part is finding a gymnasium close enough to campus for students to access, Sensoli said, adding that the club could rent space on campus to do contactless exercises or find real estate elsewhere for start your own gym.
“Health wise I think it’s not a good idea to box now, so in a way it comes at the worst of times, but we wouldn’t box anyway,” Sensoli said. . “In the fall semester, hopefully we can reorganize as (VSO) and have something to do off campus.”