October 25, 2013

Dave Sugnet “Uninvited” from US Collegiate Team at 2013 Trentino University Games


If this headline doesn’t grind your gears, it should.  We reported back in early September that WSCU student-athlete Dave Sugnet had been selected to the US Collegiate Freeskiing Team (USCFST). Now, we received word the USCFST recently contacted Dave to tell him that he was, in fact, not on the team.  This goes completely against what Dave was told by the USCFST coach, Jon Peot, back in September, and when they contacted him a few weeks ago saying he needed 5 grand for the trip.  Don’t worry, this isn’t a bunch of “he said, she said.” It just comes down to politics.

Dave Sugnet on his way to victory at Collegiate Nationals in Sun Valley. Photo: WSCU Mountain Sports

Dave Sugnet on his way to victory at Collegiate Nationals in Sun Valley. Photo: WSCU Mountain Sports

What we didn’t explain to you back in September is that the USCFST should just be called the CUFST, the University of Colorado Freestyle Ski Team.  At the time, Dave was going to be the sole member of the USCFST that was not on the CUFST (don’t worry there are more acronyms coming).  Palmer Hoyt, the head coach and director of the CUFST, recruited Dave to be a part of the USCFST because he had just won Men’s Slopestyle at the 2013 US Collegiate Nationals at Sun Valley. That’s not a bad idea if you are trying to represent the United States internationally at the collegiate level.  But why is the CUFST the deciding body for the USCFST? Palmer Hoyt explained in a recent interview with the West Elk Project that he was approached by the World University Games organizing committee to field a freestyle team for the games in its first year having freestyle events.

This is where it gets good.  Due to the fact there has never been a USCFST fielded at a Winter Universiade, there is no established selection process for freestyle. So when John Peot and Palmer Hoyt invited Dave to be on the USCFST for the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino, turns out he was going to be the only non-CUFST athlete on the team. Never mind the other collegiate athletes ranked higher or with better results.  Don’t get me wrong, if this was a results-based selection process, some Boulder athletes should make the team. However, Palmer Hoyt was tasked with creating a US national collegiate team for international competition and he is taking his own team. Now he is saying the Dave Sugnet was never “officially” on the team and was only “under consideration” when they contacted  Dave telling him he was on the team over a month ago.  “It was a miscommunication,” says Hoyt.

Palmer Hoyt owns up to the “miscommunication” saying it’s “my fault” that Dave Sugnet thought he was on the team, but he sticks to the simple “miscommunication” as the root of the problem. Dave Wiens, Director of the WSCU Mountain Sports Team, on the other hand, is livid. “It seems like they strung him along,” Wiens explained to us over the phone. “I mean how could you not have the winner of 2013 US Collegiate Nationals Slopestyle event on the USCFST at the 2013 Winter University Games? He took 2nd the year before, he’s not some fluke, and they had already invited him to the team.”

At the center of the whole thing is Dave Sugnet.  He’s pretty disappointed, but is hoping he can still make the trip.  “I just want to stay out of these Boulder politics and hopefully I can make it as an independent,” Dave explains. But time is running out for Dave.  The Winter Games kick off December 11th in Trentino and there are pretty strict rules and regulations put forth by the US-FISU (the American arm of the International University Sports Federation) and BTI, the event management company that runs the show. To top it off, Dave will be finishing his degree in Professional Land/Resource Management after this semester and won’t have another chance to represent the US at this level of competition.

This just leaves us wondering, why did this happen this way in the first place? Did Palmer Hoyt decide to make USCFST out of his Boulder athletes so that they could get the exposure? Was this the easiest option for him given a limited amount of time?  Hoyt agreed with BTI to field a USCFST back in February, and he had time to invite Dave Sugnet and screw him over, so that doesn’t seem likely. If we expand the issue outside of Dave Sugnet, there are plenty of other student-athletes who are getting snubbed here by Palmer Hoyt and the CUFST.  Sierra Nevada College students Katie Souza and Rebecca Roberts won Halfpipe and Slopestyle, respectively, both crushing their competition at the 2013 Collegiate Nationals.  Another SNC student, Jason Arens, took 1st in Men’s Halfpipe as well.  You can check the 2013 Collegiate National results yourself on the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association page. CU Boulder athletes did remarkably well with plenty of podium finishes and taking the Overall Team Titles in both the Men and Women’s Halfpipe, Slopestyle, and the Freestyle Overall titles (Skier X is also an event, but Rocky Mountain College took the Team and Individual top honors there).  CU athletes Alexis Keeney and Benjamin Hitchcock took the Individual Freestyle Overall titles, but not one CU athlete took the individual title in any freestyle event at the 2013 Collegiate Nationals.

The situation just doesn’t seem fair and Palmer Hoyt agrees with that.  In the interview with West Elk Project, Palmer said “we selected our athletes based on their personal development, their social leadership, academic curriculum and the value-based leadership we coach on the (CUFST) team.”  Sounds great, but this is an elaborate excuse for the fact that Dave Sugnet is enrolled at WSCU and not CU Boulder. Hoyt essentially admits to snubbing athletes like Dave Sugnet for his own CUFST. Considering the Winter Universiade is the highest level of collegiate competition in the world for these athletes and the CUFST/USCFST is supposed to represent the best collegiate athletes in the United States, we’re going to go ahead and call this one a load of “BS”.

Unfortunately, this puts a cloud of controversy over the USCFST in it’s first appearance at the Winter Universiade. It raises a lot of questions about the relationship between the US-FISU, BTI, and Palmer Hoyt and the CUFST.  What is happening here is not the case in the other winter collegiate sports such as Hockey or Figure Skating.  Considering this is happening during the first time that Freestyle events will be held at the Winter University Games, we can only hope that this problem can be fixed and the United States will be able to field its best possible collegiate athletes in the future. Dave Sugnet and a handful of other athletes are being done an extreme disservice that reflects poorly on the CUFST, US-FISU, BTI, and potentially the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino in general. How are people going to actually care how Team USA does in Freestyle events if it’s  just a CU Boulder team? This situation is just over the top-ridiculous, hopefully the wrongs will be righted and we will see Dave Sugnet competing at the 2013 Winter University Games.

Contact BTI here if you want to vent.

Thanks to Dave Wiens, Palmer Hoyt, and Dave Sugnet for contributing to this article.

About the Author

2. Will Dujardin
Will Dujardin is our content editor at West Elk Project. He competes in big mountain competitions and coaches the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team. Skiing is his life and he likes to mix it with other fun things like DH mountain biking and traveling.