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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
By Ray Cox Special to The Roanoke Times

The term being used is "realignment."

That is how Radford University is describing a sweeping reorganization of its athletic program that will involve the loss of three sports and the addition of a new one - women's lacrosse.

Shutting down after their respective seasons will be women's swimming and diving and men's indoor and outdoor track and field. Field hockey, a women's sport that is played in the fall, has already concluded.

Affected will be five coaches and 64 student-athletes, not counting the seniors on those teams whose eligibility will expire.

The move was recommended to the university's board of visitors by athletic director Robert Lineburg. The board announced its decision Tuesday. Lineburg met with the coaches individually then with each team Tuesday.

"I'm devastated, speechless," said junior men's hurdler Logan Shumaker, who went to Auburn High School.

Those sentiments were echoed by a couple of the coaches.

"I didn't see it coming," said field hockey coach Jeff Woods, who has worked for the university in assorted capacities for 28 years. "It was such a shock, but not so much for me, but my players. We're hurting right now."

Swimming coach Ian Coffee was hoping to end the season on a positive note.

"It's been a pretty emotional day for our program," he said. "We'd like to finish our season, do well in our conference, and move on from there."

Track and field coach Brent Chumbley declined comment. Radford will continue to fund women's track and field as well as women's and men's cross country.

Plans to reorganize the department had been underway for a year, Lineburg said. Budgetary considerations had a major impact on the decision.

"This was an opportunity to reinvest money back into our existing programs," the athletic director said. "That was a big piece of this."

The decision process began after the 10-year strategic plan for the athletic program was developed.

"It became very clear that we were spread very thin with our resources," Lineburg said. "Sixteen sports made a whole lot more sense than 19."

Meeting with the coaches and athletes to inform them was difficult, Lineburg said. The whole process involved "the hardest decision I've had to make during my professional life."

On the other hand, there was a sense of excitement with the addition of women's lacrosse. There were two big factors in that decision. One was that it has been added to the menu of sports in Radford's Big South Conference. Field hockey is not a conference sport. Radford has been a member of NorPac, a two-division conference with a geographic footprint that goes coast to coast. Western Division members include Cal and Stanford.

Big South members Liberty and Longwood are in the Eastern Division with Radford. Having all its sports in the Big South now was a major factor in dropping field hockey.

Another factor in Radford's reorganization was the growth of women's lacrosse, Lineburg said. VCU is expected to add the sport, which will mean that all the state NCAA Division I schools will soon be playing, Lineburg said.

Radford will play lacrosse in Cupp Stadium, also home of its soccer teams and the remaining track team.

The university hopes to hire a coach this spring. There is an outside chance the team will be playing in 2015 but most likely the first season will be 2016, Lineburg said. The plan is to build gradually up to nine funded scholarships with 50 percent of that (41/2 scholarships) the first season, 75 percent the next season and the full 100 percent thereafter. Once it is up and running, lacrosse is expected to have a roughly $430,000 annual budget.

No additional money will be required to begin lacrosse, given the savings involved with closing the other sports, Lineburg said. There is no chance the programs that have been dropped will return, he said.

It was an exceptionally difficult day for the athletes who would soon not have a sport.

"Besides the fact that this team is like a family to me, it meant a lot to me to be one of the few scholarship athletes to come from my high school," Shumaker said. "I wanted to finish my career here. I won't transfer. This season is it for me."

Today is national signing day.

"I had the leading scorer in the state coming here," Woods said. "I had to call her and the other players we were expecting to sign. This has been very hard." \

Highlanders make changes

Varsity sports added: 1

Women's lacrosse

Expected to debut in spring of 2016

Varsity sports eliminated: 3

Field hockey

Women's swimming and diving

Men's indoor and outdoor track and field

All three will be discontinued following the 2013-14 season

 

 
February 5, 2014

 

 
 

 

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