SAN ANTONIO – Female student-athletes at the University of Incarnate Word are speaking out and sharing their frustrations with the way their teams are treated within the Cardinals athletics department.
Two women’s soccer players read a five-page letter during a student-athlete advisory committee meeting on Monday evening that outlined several alleged issues women’s teams face compared to other programs, such as football.
The letter discusses a trend of inequality and inequity toward women’s sports at UIW, including issues with lack of promotion and marketing, inadequate travel accommodations and proper nutrition for women’s teams.
The soccer players stated in the letter that they were not “provided with snacks, or shakes after or before practice,” and their fridge in the locker room “remains empty most of the time.”
They also asked, “Why do we need to steal bananas and muffins from football’s snack table in order to have enough energy to train at 1:00 in the afternoon.”
The soccer players wrote they were given only one pair of cleats for the season, and some of their teammates would “tape and superglue them back together every weekend.”
Margie Olivares, a former UIW sports information director from 2019 to 2021, shared a copy of the letter on social media with a caption that read, “enough is enough. I’ve read this over and over and cried because I know A LOT of what these brave empowered student-athletes said is TRUE.”
“My first thought when I was reading that was I was a little unsettled, but everything was so detailed,” Olivares said in an interview with KSAT. “And then it kind of angered me in the sense that the student-athletes felt that they had to put their thoughts down to paper and read it in front of their peers so that they could be heard.”
Olivares worked with the UIW football and women’s basketball teams. She saw many of the issues laid out in the letter.
“It was kind of disheartening to read the letter and find out that the women’s soccer team had to stay in rooms that were inadequate when I know we had stayed in fairly decent hotels for football,” said Olivares. “Some of the other things I noticed firsthand were on the media relations side, and it had to do a lot with the fact that we didn’t have the staff to support all the teams we have.”
Olivares said there were also several issues with facilities for the women’s teams.
“While I was there, I believe it was the softball team who had to vacate their locker room whenever there’s a home football game because that’s the locker room that they use for the visiting football team,” said Olivares. “They say, ‘We have locker rooms, but we can’t really use them.’ That’s very true.”
Olivares obtained a copy of an audio recording of the aftermath of the soccer players reading the letter. In the recording taken by someone at the meeting, UIW deputy athletic director DaShena Stevens responded to the claims and allegations of inequities within the department.
“I think it’s important that you guys do share and have a voice in the discussions. I want to continue to encourage you guys to have that voice. I do think some of the things that you guys addressed in there are not factual. But I also want to open up that door to have that conversation,” Stevens says in the recording. “We did a Title IX report for -- to make sure that we are compliant in a lot of our areas.”
Several current and former female student-athletes have reached out to Olivares after she posted a copy of the letter on Twitter.
“The current ones have said, ‘Thank you for posting this or bringing this to people’s attention because we know we couldn’t.’ That’s kind of sad to hear they don’t think they have the platform or the safe space to talk about it in the way that they probably want to,” said Olivares. “And then former athletes are saying, ‘Thank you for sharing this. This is what we went through, and it’s about time people hear about what we went through and what struggles that we’ve had.’”
KSAT requested an interview with UIW Athletic Director Richard Duran but was notified he was not available for comment. The university provided a statement that read:
“The University of the Incarnate Word takes all student concerns and questions of equity very seriously and the health and safety of our student-athletes is, and always will be, our top priority. The University has already started working through its extensive processes to assure that we remain in compliance with all university rules, regulations and standards and that the concerns listed by the students are heard and fully taken into account.”
You can read a copy of the five-page letter below provided to KSAT by Olivares: