((HT: Howard Bloom/Sports Business Daily))
The University of Northern Iowa will eliminate its baseball program following the 2009 season, UNI director of athletics Troy Dannen announced Monday.
"This is a sad day for Northern Iowa athletics," Dannen said. "Current budget estimates project the University will see at least a nine percent reduction in state funding. That reduction directly impacts intercollegiate athletics. The projected gap between revenues and expenses for the upcoming year is $500,000 - $600,000 as a result of the reduction in state funding.
"The magnitude of the reduction has forced us to review every program in our department. That review has concluded we cannot maintain the overall quality of our athletic program without reducing the number of sports."
With the elimination of baseball, UNI will offer 17 intercollegiate varsity sports, seven men's sports and 10 women's sports. The Panthers will continue to field men's teams in basketball, cross country, football, indoor track and field, golf, outdoor track and field and wrestling, and women's teams in basketball, cross country, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.
The Panther baseball team includes 35 student-athletes. According to NCAA rules, all student-athletes who have eligibility remaining after the 2009 season will be allowed to transfer to other schools and compete in the 2010 season. Current and incoming baseball student-athletes wishing to remain at UNI and who are receiving scholarship aid will have their scholarships honored. The timing of today's announcement is in part to accommodate the interests of the student-athletes, and to assist them in finding participation opportunities at other institutions, if they so wish. Three full-time coaches are also having their positions eliminated.
"We explored every alternative before reaching this decision," Dannen said. "Coach Rick Heller and the UNI baseball program have always represented UNI in exemplary fashion and have been positive contributors to the quality of life on our campus."
According to Ben Allen, president of UNI, "During these challenging budget times, every area of campus will be affected. This decision with respect to baseball is a reflection of the difficult decisions that we will be facing across the entire University."
This is not the first time that UNI has dropped sports. Men's and women's gymnastics were dropped in 1981, and women's field hockey was dropped in 1983. In May of 2002, the men's and women's swimming and men's and women's tennis programs were dropped, but women's swimming and women's tennis were reinstated several months later. UNI also added women's soccer in 2000.
Sid Jacob's coverage from our friends at KWWL is below...
In the piece, Jacob interviews a former player who believes there are other underlying issues, other than financial, that caused the elimination of the sport after this season.
The baseball team has been given an alternative to keep the program around. Coach Heller and AD Dannen have six weeks to raise $1.2-million to keep the baseball around in the short term. At that point, they would have a few years grace to raise $10-million to permanently endow the idea of a baseball program.
The first part of the Dannen presser is below...