March 24, 2009

Colorado College drops sport

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Billy Blaustein won an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship this year as his Colorado College career, and everyone else's, ended.
Colorado College photo by Charlie Lengal

Colorado College became the third Division III school to drop football this offseason, making the announcement that it was cutting the sport effective the end of the 2008 season.

The decision, announced by president Richard Celeste and athletic director Ken Ralph, comes in response to a mandate from the school's board of trustees to reduce spending by $8 million to $12 million during the next fiscal year. 

"We went through dozens of budget scenarios before coming to the realization that we could no longer support 20 varsity sports," said Ralph, who has served as AD since July 2007. "Nobody at the school wanted this outcome and many people worked diligently to find a better alternative. In the end it was clear that this move was necessary to ensure the future health of the athletic department." 

The school maintained its Division I men's ice hockey and women's soccer programs. Also cut were softball and water polo. The cuts affect 54 male and 22 female team members, as well as four full-time and a dozen part-time staff positions. 

"The SCAC is obviously disappointed to learn of Colorado College's decision to drop its football and softball programs," said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry.

"I know this must have been an agonizingly difficult decision for the school to make," said Hanberry. 

"My concern is for the students-athletes and their coaches affected by this change," Celeste said. "We will do all we can to support them. In the long term, our goal is to ensure that we provide the resources to sustain and strengthen our remaining sports. "If we are going to do something, we want to do it right."

The announced move will result in more than a 10 percent cut in athletic expenditures during the 2009-10 academic year. The savings from football alone will exceed $450,000. 

Ice hockey's operating expenses were a little more than $1,000,000 in 2007-08, according to figures the school filed with the U.S. Department of Education.

"I am deeply troubled that these moves became necessary," Ralph said. "The elimination of programs is always an item of last resort and, unfortunately, due to the economy, we reached that point."

CC is the only Division III school in the Mountain Time Zone and is more than 600 miles from its closest football opponent, Austin College. "The expense of flying all of our teams around the country to compete has left us unable to meet our budget numbers," said Ralph. "We will put our resources to work to strengthen the remaining 17 programs."

Principia and Blackburn dropped football earlier this offseason. 

The loss of Colorado College leaves the SCAC with eight football-playing schools, and eight schools with a late open date.

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