KINGSTON, Rhode Island, April 14. IN what is becoming almost a rite of passage after every great NCAA Championship season, an athletics department is announcing a cut. This time, men's swimming is on the chopping block at the University of Rhode Island. As new information is made available, including what you can do to help fight the cut, here is the official announcement from the university.
The University of Rhode Island announced that four NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics programs will be discontinued, effective at the end of the 2007-08 academic year. Sports affected will be: men's swimming, men's tennis and field hockey. The discontinuation of gymnastics had been previously announced.
"These decisions have been difficult and painful for everyone involved with the University of Rhode Island athletics family," Thorr Bjorn, Director of Athletics said. "These are decisions that we had to make in a short period of time, but were made with the highest level of deliberation."
Due to a shortfall stemming from a 12 million dollar state reduction, the University has been forced to make campus-wide cuts. Athletics needed to cut over $800,000 from its operating budget for the upcoming 2009 fiscal year and beyond.
"The athletic department, along with other departments at the University, has been given a mandate to reduce our budget by 10 percent for the 2008-09 academic year," Bjorn explained. "While not ever our preference, we determined that this requirement could not be met without eliminating athletic programs."
"The $800,000 reduction will come from: cutting sports programs, early retirements and possible layoffs, and a more aggressive plan to generate revenue," Bjorn added. "All along, we knew in order to reach this drastic number, there would not be just one way to address this problem. We also made a conscious decision to cut vertically, rather than horizontally, to try to maintain the best possible opportunity for success for our remaining programs."
Unique to athletics during these budget cuts is a dual responsibility of fiscal prudence and equity in regards to how the University distributes scholarships and provides participation opportunities for both men and women. All decisions were made with the consultation of Janet Judge, a nationally-renowned Title IX expert.
"Director of athletics Thorr Bjorn and senior women's administrator Lauren Anderson asked me to review the University of Rhode Island's intercollegiate athletic program, as it would exist, once the budgetary cuts are implemented to ensure that the program would continue to be equitable with regard to participation and scholarship awards for both men and women," Judge said. "After reviewing the proposals for all programs, I find them to be consistent with national and conference averages and consistent with Title's mandate that participation opportunities be meaningful opportunities."
"I believe that URI's reorganization of its department will be gender equitable with regard to participation and scholarship awards," Judge added. "I was impressed by the approach taken in this case and the Department's sensitivity. The athletic administrators never reduced any of the student-athletes or their coaches to numbers on a page, but rather agonized over the choices they were asked to make by the University."
"Along with our academic programs, the athletic department at the University has had to decide to focus its reduced resources on fewer activities," Robert L. Carothers, URI President said. "These are painful decisions regardless of whether the cuts come to academic affairs, student affairs, finance and facilities or athletics. Given the economic realities of Rhode Island, the University must build its future on fewer things and being the best it can be with those programs in which we choose to invest."