KEARNEY – Facing a $3.4 million budget gap, University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen today announced unprecedented campus reductions that include eliminating Loper baseball, men’s tennis and men’s golf programs.
The athletics news was discussed today at a campuswide budget forum that also includes personnel and operational reductions in UNK administration and support staff ($837,000), faculty ($1.52 million), and business and facilities personnel ($829,475). The sport reductions will save UNK $450,000 annually.
“The fact that we developed these recommendations collaboratively across campus doesn’t lessen the negative impact on faculty, staff and students,” Kristensen said. “Sport elimination is particularly difficult because it directly impacts 56 student-athletes and 10 incoming freshmen.”
UNK Director of Athletics Paul Plinske said student-athletes’ scholarships will be honored through their remaining eligibility. and UNK will support the athletes in their efforts to find new teams, and to transfer if they desire.
“This is a very tough day for Loper athletics,” said Plinske. “Difficult times require difficult decisions, and none are as hard as those that affect the lives of our students.
“We will stay focused on being positive about the many accomplishments of these teams and will support our student-athletes and coaches who are most affected by this news.”
Kristensen said a careful analysis of the costs associated with offering 17 sports was conducted. While the average number of sports offered by MIAA peers is 13.4, UNK’s lineup of 17 sports is the most of any public university in the conference.
“Title IX compliance prohibited our consideration of eliminating any women’s sport and the MIAA conference requires sponsorship of football and basketball,” he said. “From there we analyzed operational and personnel costs, facility and travel costs, and looked at sports that lack opportunity for home competitions because of Nebraska’s spring climate.”
“We’ve done our best for a long time and have asked a lot of our supporters over the years, but unfortunately 17 sports are not sustainable given the economic environment,” Plinske said. “These student-athletes are tremendous ambassadors for our university and deserve our support as they complete this season.”
Plinske said three coaching positions will be phased out over the next year while the women’s tennis coaches will remain on staff.
UNK Intercollegiate Athletics Sport Reductions
Questions & Answers
The University of Nebraska Kearney faces a $3.4 million budget gap in 2018-19. To address this significant gap, UNK anticipates reductions that will affect academic and operational units as well as athletics.
Why reductions in athletics? UNK is having to make unprecedented reductions across campus including deep reductions in administration and support staff ($837,000), faculty ($1,551,872), and business and operations personnel ($829,475). Because athletics is primarily funded by the university, and in light of reduced state appropriations and declining enrollment, the university is no longer able to support 17 varsity sports.
How does UNK compare to Mid America Intercollegiate Athletic Association peers? MIAA conference peers, on average, sponsor 13.4 varsity sports. With 17 sports (9 women, 8 men), UNK offers the most sports in the conference other than Lindenwood, which is a private school.
Why not make other reductions instead of eliminating sports? Budgets have already been trimmed. Further across-the-board cuts will negatively affect the student-athlete experience and be detrimental to competitiveness of all varsity sports.
Which sports are being eliminated and how much will department expenditures be reduced? Baseball, men’s golf and men’s tennis will be discontinued at the conclusion of the spring 2018 season reducing athletics’ expenditures by $450,000 when fully implemented.
How many student-athletes will be affected? 56 current student-athletes and approximately 10 high school seniors who have signed National Letters of Intent with UNK.
What is the student-athlete breakdown in each sport?
How did UNK choose which sports would be eliminated? Title IX implications preclude reductions in women’s sports as an underrepresented athletic department program. MIAA membership requires sponsoring football and basketball, in addition to softball. Of the remaining six men’s varsity sports, UNK analyzed costs such as operational, personnel, facilities, travel, and increased travel and missed class time in sports that lack opportunity for home competitions due to spring climate and weather.
Will UNK assist student-athletes who want to pursue opportunities at other schools? Yes. Affected student-athletes will receive a blanket release to contact other schools immediately for purposes of transfer at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Per the NLI procedures, the agreement is null and void if a sport program is discontinued. Our coaches and Compliance Office will assist affected prospective student-athletes as they seek other intercollegiate athletic opportunities.
Will student-athlete scholarships and National Letters of Intent be honored? Yes. UNK will honor all scholarships and NLI of affected student-athletes who want to continue their studies at UNK. These students must remain eligible in accordance with UNK and athletic department eligibility standards.
What other support is the university providing to affected student-athletes? Members of the athletics administration and university staff are available to discuss scholarship and transfer information as well as provide academic advisement for eligibility purposes. UNK’s Counseling Services and Financial Aid professionals will be available for student-athletes needing additional support.
Is UNK considering other sport reductions? No. We are committed to enhancing the student-athlete experience and competitiveness of all our teams.
Will the university remain in the MIAA? Yes. UNK is firmly committed to its membership in the MIAA and to NCAA Division II athletics. Competing in Division II athletics is important to our student-athlete experience, alumni pride and national visibility.
Could funds be raised to save one or all sports? This is not a feasible strategy. To fully fund the operating and scholarship needs would require an endowment (using earnings-income on a larger investment) of $10 million for baseball, $2.25 million for men’s golf and $5 million for men’s tennis.
Will coaches or support staff be eliminated? Yes. Three coaching positions will be phased out over the next year while the women’s tennis coaches will remain on staff.
What is the plan for using or downloading the equipment and facilities? Wherever possible, the department will reallocate resources for other sport program use.
Media: Kelly Bartling, Assistant Vice Chancellor Communications and Community Relations, 308.224.7473, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.293.2602, email@example.com
UNK Athletics: Paul Plinske, Director of Athletics, 308.627.0236, firstname.lastname@example.org
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