La Salle University took drastic measures Tuesday, announcing in an open letter that the athletic department is dropping seven intercollegiate programs.
After the 2020-21 academic year, the private university in Philadelphia will no longer field teams in baseball, softball, men’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s water polo, and volleyball.
“This action will provide a better overall experience for La Salle's remaining student-athletes and create a more sustainable environment for the University's athletics department,” reads the letter signed by La Salle president Colleen M. Hanycz and director of athletics Brian Baptiste. “Simply put, La Salle Athletics cannot continue to sponsor 25 varsity sports at a competitive level. Sustaining an athletics department that offers more Atlantic 10-sponsored teams than any other in the conference at a university positioned in the conference's bottom-quartile in enrollment is not feasible. The rising costs associated with providing a high-quality Division I student-athlete experience and the financial challenges incurred by the department contributed to this decision. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the need for this change.”
La Salle will drop from 25 teams to 18 teams. The letter notes that the average NCAA institution has 18 programs while the average Atlantic 10 Conference member has 19 teams. An analysis of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation found that “the existing sport-offering structure at La Salle is not a sustainable model for success. The size of our athletics department compromises our ability to provide an exceptional, transformational experience for our student-athletes. Our resources and support services for our student-athletes are stretched too thinly across too many sports teams.”
The letter says that the university will honor all existing athletic scholarship aid through graduation at La Salle for the 130 student-athletes affected by the cuts. The FAQ said that the university determined that the size of a capital campaign needed to save the programs was deemed too large.
“Properly funding these programs at the level that would sustain their competitiveness and the high-quality experience expected by our student-athletes would have required a financial commitment of at least $100 million in endowment, scholarship aid, and capital investment,” the letter reads. “This decision will allow us to reinvest existing resources and improve our ability to provide an exceptional student-athlete experience in a competitive, high-quality Division I program.”
According to the Delaware County Times, tennis player Brandon Caban said he heard rumors of the program being cut prior to a Zoom meeting announcing the decision. Emily McCann, of the volleyball program, said it feels like a big part of her life was taken away.
“It’s a school that has been a huge foundation of my entire life,” McCann said. “I just feel shock and I feel anger. It’s a school that you’ve looked upon to support you and put you into that next step of your life for four years, and now with no warning, something that you’ve put four years of your life into is taken away.”
“The initial response is it just sent chills through your body,” former baseball player CJ Pruitt said, according to the Times. “So many people have invested so much of their livelihood in continuing so many generations of the program, being active alumni. It was such a family. … It definitely is extremely disheartening because it’s given opportunities to a lot of kids to get an absolutely phenomenal education while having the ability to play at such a high level, travel and get the experiences that the majority of the world doesn’t get.”