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April 13, 2002

UW-RF Drops, Adds Athletic Teams

UW-River Falls will drop three varsity teams and add two others as a result of an athletics module review, the University announced Friday. Chancellor Ann Lydecker said the changes will begin with the academic year 2002-03.

Lydecker based her decision on the recommendations of a campus-wide committee of faculty, staff, students and community members she empanelled to review the UW-RF sports module of 18 men's and women's teams. That committee was directed to review all programs for their contribution to the mission of the University, the impact on student athletes, gender equity, competitiveness, resources, opportunities for participation, and the sustainability of each sport with adequate facilities, coaching and competitive opportunities within the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference.

Based on that six-month review, Lydecker is implementing these changes:

•Eliminating the wrestling program. This year the team was unable to field enough participants to fill half of its 10 weight classes and ended the season with only six participants. The program does not have a facility and there is no likelihood of providing one in the foreseeable future, the committee reported. The program has ranked at the bottom of the WIAC for competitiveness.

•Eliminating the men's baseball program. New WIAC rules require more games to be played on weekends. This significantly increases the program costs, the committee determined. The inability to recruit and retain coaches, with 7 changes in 15 years, also played a role in the decision.

•Eliminating the women's gymnastics program. The sport will lose its facility with the razing of the Ames Building next year for the construction of a new Student Center. There is no replacement facility available, the committee noted, and the equipment also is aging and is expensive to replace. Also figuring into the decision is the fact that of the 422 Division III schools nationally, only 16 of them still field teams. Gymnastics is not sponsored by NCAA, as are the other sports offered on the campus.

•Adding men's track. The committee found that University facilities can support the program with the indoor facilities at the Knowles Building and the recent upgrading of the outdoor track at Ramer Field. Also, there is an active men's track club on campus, and the sport provides a good balance for two-sport athletes.

•Adding a women's golf program. Numerous factors led to that recommendation, including a high interest and ability level among women students, many golf courses within the region, little budgetary impact, qualified coaches already on staff, and a continuing institutional commitment to expanding women's sports.

Another outcome of the recommendations is to use savings from eliminating coaching positions to hire a full-time director of track operations to oversee both menıs and womenıs track. That coach will be charged with recruiting and with enhancing the participation of women in track and field.

Chancellor Lydecker noted in announcing the changes, "I've reviewed the report with an analysis of how we have historically moved and continue to move toward expanding our athletics opportunities proportionate to gender. While we will continue to provide opportunities for male students we will provide expanded opportunities for female athletes.

"These decisions also will help us to use our existing facilities more effectively, particularly our track facilities." Lydecker said the decision continues the Universityıs historic efforts to meet federal Title IX provisions that require equity in men's and women's sports. In recent years UW-RF dropped menıs track and men's tennis (1995), and added women's soccer (1996) and women's hockey (1999).

With the changes, UW-RF will offer athletic opportunities for male students in basketball, football, hockey, swimming, cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. Women's teams will include basketball, hockey, softball, soccer, swimming, tennis, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, volleyball and golf.

Said UW-RF interim Athletics Director Rick Bowen, "It is unfortunate that this announcement must be made. In the short term it is very painful, but the long-term viability of the athletic department demands that we make some very difficult decisions. This happens to be one of them. The committee that made this recommendation was a broad cross section of the campus community that did an enormous amount of study.

"I support Chancellor Lydecker in this decision. I look forward to moving forward in a positive manne r. This is a direction that we have to head."

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