Athletics Cuts Women's Tennis and Men's Golf Programs
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
The UNCP Athletic department informed the women’s tennis and men’s golf programs that their programs were being cut at the end of the season, and that a men’s and women’s indoor track and field and a women’s swimming and diving team were to be added to the department in the coming years.
Director of Athletics Dick Christy sat down with both teams individually on March 18 to discuss the plans to cut the programs due to financial reasons.
“We had the budget evaluation committee look at our budget when we saw our deficit forecast was not going to recover in time before our reserve account was depleted,” Christy said. “The last four years we have been in a deficit and that account has been the only thing that has allowed us to balance.
“So I asked that committee to take a hard look and the main thing I told them was to, number one, divest six figures of reoccurring budget.”
After the UNC Board of Governors approved the tuition and fees increase in February, Christy knew what the four-year forecast for the tuition would be and how scholarships would cover.
The cuts were made both financially, but also to help keep the enrollment numbers from taking too hard of a hit. The two teams, women’s tennis and men’s golf, are the two smallest rosters in the department.
“We needed to be really cognoscente of Title IX and what was going on with female participation opportunities, and we needed to be cognoscente of our enrollment impact,” Christy said. “We couldn’t make a decision that was going to save athletics money but cost the campus enrollment.”
The addition of the men’s and women’s indoor track and field team and a women’s swimming and diving team are seen as a possibility to increase enrollment, especially with female athletes
“The plan we came up with will help the enrollment grow,” Christy said.
“We definitely wanted to try and increase our female participation because if you look at us probably one in four student-athletes are female,”
Cost wise, the cuts to the two programs save the athletic department more than just the cost per student-athlete. Upgrades to the tennis courts were needed in the future.
“From a facilities needs, we only have five tennis courts, we really need six and we probably had court resurfacing due in a little while if we were going to continue to compete,” Christy said.
With the addition of the new sports, Christy sees a chance to streamline the spending in the department.
“Through the five sports involved in this change, we are going to get about $115,000 more efficient,” he said. “We are looking at indoor track as a cost neutral decision.
“The committee looked at how the campus was spending a $250,000 to renovate the pool and knowing from a facilitates perspective that would be low hanging fruit. That and interest from the region kind of brought it to the surface as a female sport perspective.”
Along with the increase use of the newly renovated pool, there are also several opportunities for the women’s swimming and diving team to compete locally without having high travel costs. According to Christy, there are eight schools in North and South Carolina that have swim teams, and are independent like the UNCP program will.
“From a regional stand point it’s a good fit. There are several schools between here and Charlotte that actually sponsor it,” he said. “Our goal is to recruit next year, but we will not be able to compete until ’16-’17.”
Indoor track and field will require no new facilities and opens up several roster spots for the future. Christy said that this could recruit athletes with a draw of them being able to compete year-round. The track and field teams already compete in three regular season indoor meets, and to be considered to compete in the championship for indoor track and field requires four regular season meets.
“If we would sponsor it now, we would have student-athletes who could compete for the championship based on their marks this year,” Christy said.
For the time being, student-athletes on both teams that are being cut will have two main options. Players have the choice to stay at UNCP or transfer to continue to play competitively in their sport.
“Any student on those teams that wants to remain at UNCP, we will honor their scholarship,” Christy said. “We have issued full and unconditional release to all of those students and they have my commitment and our coaches’ commitment to do everything to help place them in a participation opportunity.”
There was backlash on social media from athletes of other teams regarding how both teams were cut without any prior notice. Christy feels the way he handled the situation kept the status quo normal throughout the whole department.
“My responsibility is to our whole department,” he said. “It would not be fair to any of our teams to float information like this out there that it may occur, and let everyone panic when I was not certain about it until this month.
“Yes, it was out of left field for them, and that made the message that much more challenging to deliver. But from a leadership perspective, looking at the alternative and what that would do to all our teams by speculating about, is not something we could do.”
The actions by the athletic department will not need Board of Trustees approval because the UNC system allows all athletic department issues to be handled under the chancellor’s authority.