UNI drops baseball - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI drops baseball

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) - The University of Northern Iowa's athletic department announced Monday it will no longer continue its baseball program.

Any student athlete who wants to transfer can transfer and will be eligible to play at any school.  Athletes currently on scholarship will still be granted the money.

The school said the baseball team has a net loss of $400,000 a year and the University is losing nine percent of its state funding.

"This is a sad day for Northern Iowa athletics," Dannen said. "Current budget estimates project the University will see at least a 9% reduction in state funding.  That reduction directly impacts intercollegiate athletics. The projected gap between revenues and expenses for the upcoming year is $500,000 - $600,000 as a result of the reduction in state funding.

"The magnitude of the reduction has forced us to review every program in our department.  That review has concluded we cannot maintain the overall quality of our athletic program without reducing the number of sports."

With the elimination of baseball, UNI will offer 17 intercollegiate varsity sports, seve men's sports and 10 women's sports.  The Panthers will continue with men's teams in basketball, cross country, football, indoor track and field, golf, outdoor track and field and wrestling.

Women's teams will include basketball, cross country, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.

The Panther baseball team includes 35 student-athletes.  According to NCAA rules, all student-athletes who have eligibility remaining after the 2009 season will be allowed to transfer to other schools and compete in the 2010 season. 

Current and incoming baseball student-athletes wishing to remain at UNI and who are receiving scholarship aid will have their scholarships honored.  The timing of today's announcement is in part to accommodate the interests of the student-athletes, and to assist them in finding participation opportunities at other institutions, if they so wish.  Three full-time coaches are also having their positions eliminated.

"We explored every alternative before reaching this decision," Dannen said.  "Coach Rick Heller and the UNI baseball program have always represented UNI in exemplary fashion and have been positive contributors to the quality of life on our campus."

According to Ben Allen, president of UNI, "During these challenging budget times, every area of campus will be affected.  This decision with respect to baseball is a reflection of the difficult decisions that we will be facing across the entire University."

This is not the first time that UNI has dropped sports.  Men's and women's gymnastics were dropped in 1981, and women's field hockey was dropped in 1983.  In May of 2002, the men's and women's swimming and men's and women's tennis programs were dropped, but women's swimming and women's tennis were reinstated several months later.  UNI also added women's soccer in 2000.

FACTS about UNI Baseball posted on the Missouri Valley Conference Website:
FY 09 Expense: $485,405 Salaries - Recruiting - Scholarships - Supplies & Service (Including Travel)
FY 09 Income:  $87,000 Ticket Sales & Fundraising
FY 09 Net Expense: $398,405
Participants: 35
Coaches: Three full time, one volunteer
 
Frequently Asked Questions from UNI:

How many sports will UNI have?  How many sports does the average NCAA Division I school have?  How about the average Missouri Valley Conference school?
UNI will offer 17 sports, including:

  • Seven for men: Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Wrestling
  • Ten for women: Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball

The average NCAA Division I school offers 18 sports.  The average Missouri Valley Conference institution offers 16.2 sports.

Why are cuts necessary?
The significant downturn in the nation's economy impacts our department.  Consequently, our projected gap between revenues and expenses for the upcoming fiscal year is $500,000 - $600,000.  This is a result of a cut in the general fund allocation from the University.   This year, the athletic department receives approximately $5.3 million from the general fund.  Budget proposals currently show the University will see a nine percent reduction in state funding.  That reduction in state funding ultimately impacts Panther athletics.

The net savings from the elimination of baseball does not account for the entire cut.  What other impacts will be felt by the department?
The department travel budget will be reduced by at least $200,000.  In addition, some vacant staff positions will not be filled.  The expense created by increasing scholarship costs will be addressed through expansion of Panther Scholarship Club activities, such as the "Rally in the Valley" auction in April.

Why cut a sport entirely?  Why not implement across-the-board cuts in order to keep all 18 current programs?
The magnitude of the cut is too significant to achieve through across-the-board reductions.  We examined alternatives such as scholarship reductions in several sports, reducing some assistant coaching positions to part time, or eliminating the positions entirely.   Ultimately, it became clear that each of these options would reduce the quality of all programs below acceptable levels, and compromise the ability of our programs to be competitive for years to come.
We decided our primary objective should be to protect the quality of the overall program and student experience, even if that meant reducing the number of sports we offer.

Why baseball?  How was this program selected?
We reviewed our current programs with the membership guidelines and the competitive standards of the NCAA, Missouri Valley Conference, Western Wrestling Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference in mind.  We examined potential cost savings, facilities, local and regional issues such as weather and travel requirements, and gender equity issues.  After weighing those factors, the decision to eliminate baseball after the 2009 season was made.
This was an exceptionally difficult decision, knowing the history and tradition of baseball at UNI and the impact that it will have on the staff, student-athletes and alumni involved. They have always represented UNI in exemplary fashion and have been positive contributors to the quality of life on our campus.

Is the elimination of baseball related to Title IX?
The elimination of UNI baseball is not directly related to Title IX.  There would be no consideration of dropping a program if not for the pending budget cuts at a state and institutional level.  However, given the economic conditions, compliance with federal laws such as Title IX was a consideration when assessing our programs.  UNI has a 57 percent female student body.  Currently, 39 percent of the participation opportunities in the athletic department are female.  This factor alone meant eliminating female opportunities was not feasible.   Approximately 375 student-athletes will participate in the department in 2009-10.  This number coincides with the average number of participants in football-playing Missouri Valley Conference schools.

Why didn't UNI organize a fund-raising campaign to save baseball?
The cuts from our general fund support are permanent.  Thus, nearly $400,000 additional dollars would have to be raised annually to sustain the sport at its current level.   The other option was to support baseball through endowment funding.  Given baseball's current budget, it would take an investment of $10 million to generate enough interest to cover annual expenses.  We did not feel either of these options were realistic in today's economic environment.

Why now?  Couldn't the announcement come after the season?
We felt the greatest service we could offer the student-athletes and coaches impacted by this decision was to provide them with as much notice as possible to allow them the best opportunity to plan for 2009-2010.  The availability of scholarship aid at other institutions would be severely limited by the time the current season ended.

What happens to the players?
During the current season, regular operations continue.  The NCAA allows any student-athletic affected by elimination of their sport program to transfer to another school and be immediately eligible for the 2009-2010 season.  Those student-athletes wishing to remain at UNI will have their existing scholarship honored.  All student-athletes will be provided with academic and other counseling, support and assistance as they adjust to this difficult decision.

Online Producer:  JJ Murray

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