Opportunity. Collegiate track and field provides an opportunity for low-income students to earn an affordable, quality education. At least, that's what the sport means to current Clemson University student-athlete Kameron Jones. With that said, it's no surprise that Jones was confused and hurt by Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich's decision to eliminate the men's cross country and track & field programs - a decision that, in effect, will eliminate opportunities for minority athletes.
Jones did not begin his collegiate career at Clemson University. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, having run track & field all four years. He holds multiple school records for sprinting events: the outdoor 400m, the indoor 300m, the indoor 600m, and the indoor and outdoor 4x4 relay. During his time at Maryland, he discovered a career interest in the world of sports. He was offered a job with the NCAA but decided to turn it down in favor of continuing his collegiate career with the Clemson Tigers. "I got the opportunity to be a part of a program where I didn't have compromise," he states. "Clemson has the master's program I wanted, world-class [track & field] facilities, world-class coaching, and a competitive team."
He first stepped onto campus in the midst of two key events, one global and the other local: the COVID-19 crisis and the Clemson University UNITY campaign. Both would play a role in the devastating decision and consequential actions that would come a few months later.
After Radakovich's announcement on November 5, one of the first things Jones noticed was the lack of unity among Clemson athletes. The initial UNITY campaign, which garnered high levels of participation from all Clemson sports, focused on encouraging fellow athletes and students to celebrate and embrace diversity. As the name suggests, the campaign was intended to unite athletes under one common purpose. However, as the men's cross country and track & field programs faced their greatest challenge, other athletes remained silent. Unlike his undergraduate teammates, Jones mournfully notes that he has yet to experience the famed "Clemson Family". "And that's what's so unfortunate," he states. "That's something they [Clemson leaders] seem to preach but I haven't seen it."
In spite of his doubts regarding the university's public declaration of the "Clemson Family," Jones has stepped into a leadership role within the Save Clemson XCTF organization. This is a young man who has no personal history or future at Clemson, but who continues to sacrifice his time and energy in support of his teammates and the generations of athletes who will come behind him. "We want to see athletic departments providing more opportunities for students, but instead they're eliminating opportunities. I had such a great opportunity to receive a bachelor's and a master's through track & field, and it's important to keep those doors open for the next generation; you can't close the door behind you."
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