Citing the rising cost of sponsoring an intercollegiate athletics program, as well as concern over general students' health, Atlanta's Spelman College has decided to replace sports with a wellness program that serves the entire campus population.
"When we studied this early this year, I was startled to see that we really had only 80 student-athletes out of 2,100 students, and our program was costing almost $1 million," Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of the historically black women's college, told The New York Times. "I was also surprised to learn of studies showing that African-American women are the least physically active demographic in the U.S."
The Times reports that black people in the United States are more likely than whites to suffer the ill effects of poor diet and inactivity, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
But the timing of Spelman's decision was right for other reasons. Last year, several members of its Division III Great South Athletic Conference announced they were planning to leave the league, and doing likewise would have raised expenses for Spelman at a time of financial pressure. The college also has plans to renovate its outdated athletics building in 2013-14, an investment that makes it difficult to sponsor intercollegiate athletics well into the future. Instead, some of the savings will be diverted to a fitness and nutrition program for all students, including expansion of Spelman's popular voluntary wellness program and related classes.
On Thursday, Spelman officially notified the NCAA of its decision, which it made last April. The college will cease competition in May. According to the NCAA, Spelman is only the second member school in 10 years (with New York City College of Technology) to discontinue its athletics program.