University to drop women’s and men’s golf programs, add women’s crew to Division I athletics
On Friday, Oct. 29, the University of Portland Athletic Department announced plans to discontinue the men's and women's varsity golf programs at the end of the current academic year, replacing both sports with Division I women's crew.
The decision to replace varsity golf with crew came about as part of the University's most recent NCAA recertification process, which requires the University to maintain certain academic, gender participation and funding guidelines for student athletes.
According to a press release issued by the Athletic Department, the factors that influenced the decision were roster size, budget, facilities, impact on campus and in the community as well as historic success and potential for future success.
"We've spent the last two years taking a real close look at the University's sports situation and decided that crew is one of the bet fits," Athletic Director Larry Williams said.
Though budget was a factor in the decision, the Athletic Department's press release explicitly states: "The decision to discontinue the golf program was in no way mandated by the University or necessitated as a cost-cutting matter."
According to the press release, the potential for development of the riverfront campus was also a factor in the decision.
"The opportunity for a boathouse on the riverfront campus was part of it and because there is already a club on campus, we can recruit from existing students who have that athletic drive," Williams said.
The combined roster for men's and women's golf totals 16 players while the average NCAA roster for women's crew is 62.6, thus the addition of crew brings UP back into Title IX compliance.
Title IX is a federal statute that makes gender discrimination in any school program that receives federal funding illegal, and as part of NCAA certification compliance, the University must therefore provide athletic opportunities in proportion to overall enrollment. Prior to the discontinuation of varsity golf and the addition of crew, the University fielded one less women's team than men's.
"In the press release, it's almost like they skipped the fact they were dropping golf and instead focused on adding crew," senior men's golf team member Jake Wagner said. "They really haven't told us why exactly this is happening, only bits and pieces. Why not keep both golf teams and add crew too?"
Both golf teams will finish the remainder of their seasons in the spring, and the University will honor the scholarship contracts of those athletes who choose to remain at UP.
The Athletic Department will also assist golfers who wish to transfer.
"We want to be in a position to help those who want to transfer," Williams said. "Competition is at the heart of athletics, and if that competitive opportunity isn't here then, darn it, I want to help you find it."
Any athlete who decides to transfer will be allowed to compete immediately, as per NCAA regulations. However, according to sophomore women's golfer Rachel Fischer, transferring schools is not a simple process, and prior knowledge of the University's plans would have affected her decision to attend.
"I have to find a school with a good program for my major that also has an open spot on the team and would be willing to offer financial assistance," Fischer said.
Wagner also points out that the national letter of intent signing date for high school seniors begins Nov. 12, which means that transfer students also have to compete for spots with up-andcoming freshman.
A senior member of the women's golf team, Bridget Gleason described the Athletic Department's announcement as "a kind of slap in the face." According to Gleason, the team was not informed of the decision and was unaware that the golf program was being reviewed until the night before the announcement.
"Now it's like everyone's senior year. It's not just my last practice or my last tournament, it's our last practice and our last tournament," Gleason said.
The men's golf team had a record-setting fall season and, according to Fischer, the women's team has a strong chance of improving its position in conference and nationally.
Though Gleason fears that the school's discontinuation of golf could have a negative effect on player performance in the spring, she also says the situation is a source of motivation.
Fischer agrees, "I'm that much more motivated to prove them wrong, to show them that we are a good group of people and that we do have potential."
Varsity women's crew will begin competing at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year against West Coast Conference schools such as Gonzaga, Santa Clara, Saint Mary's and Loyola Marymount.
"It's an exciting opportunity for the girls on the team; the club team has been working really hard and it's paid off," sophomore women's crew club member Lauren Doss said. "Crew is a unique sport that not a lot of people know about, but now it will be more popular."
As the Athletic Department begins to assimilate the women's club crew team, the golf teams are preparing for their final spring season.
"Lets make this the best year we can," Gleason said. "We've got nothing to lose."