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St. Cloud State, Crookston Cut Football Programs

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There will be two fewer college football teams in Minnesota next fall.

St. Cloud State and Minnesota Crookston both announced Tuesday that they will drop their football programs, while St. Cloud State is also dropping men’s and women’s golf and adding men’s soccer.

“(It’s) a hard day,” St. Cloud football coach Scott Underwood said, according to the St. Cloud Times. “You don’t think of (the end) as how it went down today. It’s not how you figure it’s the last time you get to see the kids that you coach.”

While both schools cut football to ensure financial stability, St. Cloud State also made the changes to comply with a Title IX court order. Men’s soccer will be added to comply with NCAA sport sponsorship legislation, adding a popular sport that has lower staffing, scholarship and operational resource costs.

“We made this extremely difficult decision because St. Cloud State faces a convergence of circumstances that required us to change our athletics offerings," said St. Cloud State President Robbyn Wacker in the press release, which also noted the school has built a deficit of $1.6 million the past four years. "This will have a profound impact on our committed student-athletes, our dedicated coaches, and the passionate alumni and supporters who have followed our programs throughout their proud histories. Our student-athletes and coaches approach every day with incredible devotion and desire to be their best and represent St. Cloud State in the classroom, on the field, and in our community. We are grateful for their commitment and will assist them as they move forward."

On Aug. 1, U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Tunheim found that St. Cloud State was in violation of Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance. St. Cloud State was ordered to take immediate action to fix the situation, which began after the school removed six athletic programs in 2016, leading athletes to sue the university.

The decisions will affect about 115 athletes, seven coaches and two graduate assistant coaches at St. Cloud State. The new-look athletic department will feature 17 teams across Division I and Division II.

"As someone who believes in the athletics experience and its positive impact on student-athletes and has watched and valued our players and alumni throughout my tenure at St. Cloud State, this decision weighs heavily on me," athletic director Heather Weems said. "I believe this decision provides the best pathway for Huskies Athletics and a future that sustains a healthy and competitive overall athletics program."

Crookston’s release noted that the school will honor scholarships for football players that want to remain students at the university in northwest Minnesota, while assistance will be provided for those who decide to transfer or pursue other opportunities.

"We deeply value the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches, athletic administration and everyone associated with this program. They dedicated themselves to representing our campus community in a positive way and I want to thank them for that," Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause said.

The release said that funding challenges have increase in recent years, and that the football team can’t be maintained, let alone compete, without significant improvements in facilities, student-athlete developments, scholarships and staffing.

"Going forward, we will invest more in other programs to support the diverse demands and interests of our students, taking into account facility needs, departmental balance, budget and competitive opportunities,” Holz-Clause said of the school’s 12 remaining Division II programs.

Crookston went 0-11 this season, which ended with a 44-15 loss to the University of Mary (N.D.) on Nov. 16. The Golden Eagles have lost 18 straight games since a 29-21 win at Minot State (N.D.) on Sept. 22, 2018.

St. Cloud State went 4-7 this season, including a 38-0 win over Crookston on Sept. 14. Both teams were part of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

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