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Oklahoma Baptist Drops More Than One-Third of Teams

Brock Fritz

A Division II university in Oklahoma is dropping seven of its 20 athletic programs after the 2020-21 school year.

Oklahoma Baptist University announced the moves Monday, posting a letter on the school’s athletic website saying that men’s golf, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s lacrosse will be discontinued following the current school year.

The letter, which is signed by university president Dr. Heath A. Thomas and director of athletics Robert Davenport, states that the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened an examination of Oklahoma Baptist’s long-term financial health. Therefore, the university in Shawnee developed a new budget proposal and asked the athletic department to reduce its annual operating budget by about $3 million.

“With 583 student-athletes calling Bison Hill home, athletics plays an important role in the life of the university,” the letter reads. “Like many institutions around the country, OBU has recently been forced to grapple with significant budgetary challenges. As with every department on campus, Athletics has borne its share of the burden in reducing costs in pursuit of balancing the budget.

“After extensive discussions it became clear that reducing the number of varsity athletics programs provided the path forward to achieve the required financial benchmarks set forth by the Board of Trustees and chart a path toward long-term sustainability.”

Oklahoma Baptist will honor all “existing scholarships through graduation within the standard four-year window.”

The frequently asked questions portion of the announcement stated that the moves are expected to save about $2.5 million in fiscal year 2022 and $3.1 million once all current scholarship athletes have graduated.

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