Slippery Rock to drop eight varsity sports including wrestling program

By Slippery Rock | Feb. 01, 2006, 4:24 p.m. (ET)
Rock will discontinue 8 varsity intercollegiate sports
at conclusion of the 2005-06 academic year

Decision driven by the need to effectively manage institution's fiscal resources in a time of significant budgetary constraints

Jan. 30, 2006

Slippery Rock, Pa. - Slippery Rock University announced today the discontinuance of eight varsity athletic teams effective the end of the current academic year. Eliminated will be field hockey, golf, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's water polo, men's tennis and wrestling.

"These have been painful decisions," President Robert Smith said. "We are immediately working with our students to help them make decisions regarding their participation in sports and with our affected employees and their families for their careers. We will continue the scholarships for those students who are impacted by this decision and will take other steps to help them.

"Our decision to eliminate programs was driven by the necessity to effectively manage the institution's fiscal resources in a time of significant budgetary constraints without eroding our commitment to quality," Smith said. "We have been evaluating our athletic program since 2001, listening to a variety of internal and external committees, who have recommended it is time we need to act.

"SRU has grown by 12 percent in those years to serve nearly 1,100 more students. We continue to grow in enrollment and in the quality of our students and academic programs. Despite those successes, Slippery Rock University is facing a third straight year of multi-million-dollar budget cuts as a consequence of mandated fixed costs and the erosion of revenue sources. During those years we have balanced our budget through reductions in management positions, non-contractual assignments of faculty and numerous other cost-cutting measures."

Maintaining quality

"We have kept our focus on three major values: Raising the value of a Slippery Rock University degree; being a premier residential university; and managing our financial integrity. Having the right-size athletic program affects each of these goals. Raising the value of our degree depends on continuing to strengthen our academic quality; that has to be the priority for our spending. Being a premier residential university involves having an athletic program that is funded so that those teams have the best chance to be competitive. And, managing our fiscal integrity requires wise decisions about resource allocation."

Smith explained the athletic decisions were made after extensive discussions. The University Athletic Council, which includes a coach, faculty, student athletes and staff, began a series of meetings in September to perform a five-year review of the athletic department with a focus on sports sponsorship. The council's recommendations were delivered to Smith in mid-December. He also received an independent external consultant's review in November that reiterated the need to reduce the number of teams sponsored. He then met with representatives of the Student Athlete Advisory Council to discuss their concerns and respond to their questions.

"The work of the UAC was critical to this process," Smith said. "It was important to involve those affected as much as possible. Dr. Brian Crow, faculty athletic representative and chair of the UAC, and a student representative from the Student Athlete Advisory Council played important leadership roles in monitoring the decision-making process."

"In making the final decision, we considered cost-saving potential, necessary future investment in facilities -- which particularly impacted the water sports -- the competitiveness of the teams, the academic performance of the athletes, and the financial support of alumni and external financial support over the past decade," Smith explained. "These cuts will result in estimated reduction of annual expenditures of $350,000." He noted that even with the reductions, spending on athletics would still exceed what is typical at NCAA Division II institutions.

A June 2005 study commissioned by the NCAA indicated that the typical NCAA Division II athletic program is made up of 14 teams. Slippery Rock's new complement will be 15 teams.

Click the link below to visit a question and answer page published by the university concerning the decision to drop the sport: