COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In an
effort to reorganize its athletics department and weather the
ongoing economic crisis, Colorado College will discontinue three
NCAA Division III sports – football, softball and water polo
– effective at the end of the current academic year.
The decision, announced by President Richard F. Celeste and Director of Athletics Ken Ralph on Tuesday, March 24, comes in response to a mandate from CC’s Board of Trustees to reduce spending by $8 million to $12 million during the next fiscal year.
“We went through dozens of budget scenarios before coming to the realization that we could no longer support 20 varsity sports,” said Ralph, who has served as AD since July 2007. “Nobody at the school wanted this outcome and many people worked diligently to find a better alternative. In the end it was clear that this move was necessary to ensure the future health of the athletic department.”
Based on 2008-09 rosters, the cuts involve 54 male and 22 female team members, as well as four full-time and a dozen part-time staff positions.
“My concern is for the students-athletes and their coaches affected by this change,” Celeste said. “We will do all we can to support them. In the long term, our goal is to ensure that we provide the resources to sustain and strengthen our remaining sports.
“If we are going to do something, we want to do it right.”
All three sports being discontinued compete at the NCAA Division III level. Team members do not receive athletic scholarships. The college will continue to offer its 17 other varsity programs, including Division I women’s soccer and men’s ice hockey.
The announced move will result in more than a 10-percent cut in athletic expenditures during the 2009-10 academic year. The savings from football alone will exceed $450,000.
“I am deeply troubled that these moves became necessary,” Ralph said. “The elimination of programs is always an item of last resort and, unfortunately, due to the economy, we reached that point.”
CC is the only Division III school in the Mountain Time Zone. The majority of its varsity teams now compete in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, whose members are spread throughout the southern United States. The closest opponent is Austin College in Sherman, Texas, more than 600 miles from Colorado Springs.
“The expense of flying all of our teams around the country to compete has left us unable to meet our budget numbers,” said Ralph. “We will put our resources to work to strengthen the remaining 17 programs.”
While softball and water polo are relatively new at the college, the tradition of Tiger Football has spanned parts of three centuries. Its storied history dates back to 1882, when the first game was played against a group of local firemen, and includes a 54-year association (1909-1963) with the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, during which the team reigned as league champion or co-champion seven times.
However, after going 7-1-1 in 1976, and earning an NCAA Division III playoff bid a year earlier under legendary head coach Jerry Carle, the program has finished with a winning record only four times – and only once (1993) in the last 32 seasons. By the end of 2008, its second campaign as a member of the SCAC, Colorado College was able to dress fewer than 40 healthy players – a plight that had become all too typical in recent years.
Softball, initiated as a varsity sport in 1996 and also a member of the SCAC, has 11 members on its 2009 roster. Water polo, which is in its sixth season at Colorado College, also has 11 players and was able to schedule just one home game this spring.
“At Colorado College, we aim for excellence in all we do for students – in the classroom, in sports, in service and in study abroad,” said Celeste. “When we fall short, we must take steps to rectify the situation. These three sports have been under-resourced for years, which means that our student-athletes do not enjoy the quality of experience we expect to provide. These turbulent economic times require painful decisions, and we have to make such decisions in the context of sustaining excellence.”
The Division I women’s soccer and hockey programs, which compete in Conference USA and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, respectively, have found ways to reduce spending in 2009-10. Due to significant sponsorship help, however, both teams will have more resources at their disposal despite expending fewer overall dollars.
Colorado College Athletic Media Relations