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St. Cloud State to drop football and golf, add men's soccer

St. Cloud State to drop football and golf, add men's soccer Photo: KSTP

Updated: December 10, 2019 10:35 PM

St. Cloud State University announced Tuesday it is dropping some collegiate sports due to "financial sustainability."

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The University says it's eliminating football along with men's and women's golf. However, the school is adding men's soccer to the list of sports offered at St. Cloud State. This changes the overall athletic program from 19 to 17 sports — six men's and 11 female's — at the beginning of the 2020 academic year. The changes directly impact about 115 students, seven head and assistant head coaches and two graduate assistant coaches, according to the university.

"We made this extremely difficult decision because St. Cloud State faces a convergence of circumstances that required us to change our athletics offerings," said St. Cloud State President Robbyn Wacker in a release. "This will have a profound impact on our committed student-athletes, our dedicated coaches, and the passionate alumni and supporters who have followed our programs throughout their proud histories. Our student-athletes and coaches approach every day with incredible devotion and desire to be their best and represent St. Cloud State in the classroom, on the field, and in our community. We are grateful for their commitment and will assist them as they move forward."

According to the school, the current structure inhibits the University's ability to address the Aug. 1 Federal District Court IX rulingand the fiscal situation of both the University and Huskies Athletics, with a growing athletics deficit of more than $1.6 million over the past four years.

Under the new structure, St. Cloud State will focus on a smaller footprint of 17 NCAA Division-II programs. The addition of men's soccer will allow SCSU to comply with NCAA sport sponsorship legislation and acknowledges soccer's growth and popularity, among other things.

Reactions from athletes

The news was met with shock and disappointment by the more than 100 athletes and their coaches in the impacted programs.

Montel Austin, a senior who is on the football team, said he is most concerned about his younger teammates.

“I just know how much we all sacrifice,” Austin said. “When we went out, that’s the last time touching that field. My freshman that came in, that’s their last time touching that field.”

“This is such an upsetting thing,” said Madi Eurich, a sophomore on the women’s golf team. “This is what we’re coming to school for.”

Eurich, along with fellow teammates, said they questioned university president Robbyn Wacker during the meeting about the decision to cut the golf programs.

“We repetitively asked them, ‘Why women’s golf? Why men’s golf?’ sophomore Alexa Owen said. “They are such small programs to start with. I don’t think they really had that answer for us. It just kind of felt like we were going in circles.”

Head football coach Scott Underwood said he learned about the cuts less than an hour before administrators gathered student athletes to tell them.

“When you start connecting dots and you get called in a meeting, you kind of know where that is going,” Underwood said, explaining he felt like the writing was on the wall.

But Underwood got emotional when asked about how he feels knowing he’s already coached his final season at St. Cloud State.

“That’s probably the toughest,” he said. “There’s a portion of our kids that that was their last practice. They didn’t know it, but it was.”

Difficult decisions

The decision has support from Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra.

"In the context of the challenging fiscal environment that higher education faces today as well as federal and NCAA requirements that athletic programs are required to meet, many colleges and universities are being forced to make very difficult decisions in order to preserve their financial and programmatic sustainability," said Malhotra. "Although I understand that this action will be disappointing to many in the St. Cloud State community, I endorse this decision, as it strategically positions the University to secure its future and be more effective in promoting student success, and the vitality of the communities and the region it serves."

Minnesota-Crookston also announced it will be cutting its football team, as well.

"As an institution, the decision to discontinue any program is extremely difficult," says Mary Holz-Clause, chancellor at UMN Crookston. "Ensuring a balanced, financially stable profile across our athletics department demands careful analysis, planning, and thoughtful consideration, all of which played a role in making this challenging decision and will continue to play a role in how we approach this work every day. Going forward, we will invest more in other programs to support the diverse demands and interests of our students, taking into account facility needs, departmental balance, budget and competitive opportunities."

The school said in a news release the program has historically faced serious challenges from lack of available funding, challenges that have grown in recent years. "Without substantial and ongoing financial investment in facilities, student-athlete development, scholarships and staffing, the football program cannot be maintained, let alone improve competitively," the school said.

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference issued the following statement about the elimination of the programs: 

With the recent news regarding the elimination of sport program offerings at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) and the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC), the NSIC is providing an update on how the changes impact the operations of the conference. 

The 2019-24 NSIC Strategic Plan instituted the goal of addressing issues regarding conference membership, potential growth and future stability. Following review and discussion, the NSIC Board of Directors instituted policy change that creates institutional autonomy on their sports offerings by adjusting the requirements of the conference membership to only mandate a certain number of conference-sponsored sports rather than requiring specific athletic programs. 

The goal of the NSIC is to provide a smooth transition as both SCSU and UMC remain vital members of our conference. For the student-athletes at SCSU and UMC whose programs (football) have been eliminated with an immediate effective date, we will be waiving the conference's interconference transfer restrictions. 

The development of a 2020 NSIC Football schedule with 14 sponsoring institutions is under development.
 

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