Wright State University announced Wednesday it is reducing the number of its intercollegiate athletic programs by three, effective immediately.
The action is being taken as part of the university's overall budget restructuring efforts. Wright State is implementing a multiyear plan that will stabilize operations in the midst of lower projected enrollments and declining state support. The current COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for all areas of the university to reduce expenditures. Today’s announcement is part of a plan for a $2 million reduction in the operating budget of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Affected programs are softball, men’s tennis and women’s tennis. The move affects 39 student-athletes and six coaches. Wright State will now have 11 sports (six women's, five men's). In addition to the elimination of sports, several other measures will be taken to reduce athletics spending.
“This is extremely difficult because of our strong belief that athletics is an integral part of the educational work we do at Wright State — the education of the whole person,” Wright State Director of Athletics Bob Grant said. “This affects the lives of students who make up a group of some of the highest achievers on this campus. A group that is achieving at record levels academically, giving back to the community, and is strongly engaged with the university. Our main focus now is supporting the students and coaches impacted by this decision.”
NCAA Division I member institutions are required to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) with two team sports for each gender. Wright State has been in contact with the NCAA and will pursue a waiver to remain in compliance.
“These events are devastating in that they impact the lives of both our students and staff in a very negative way and cut deep into the fabric of supporting our students for success," said Wright State University President Sue Edwards. "These circumstances we find ourselves in are ones that all universities across the country find themselves facing. We are sadly going to have to make more decisions moving forward that will be difficult, but the long-term sustainability of the organization is key. I am personally very disappointed. Our students are the whole reason we are here, and our employees are the fabric of our institution, and this is truly painful to our Wright State family.”
The university will honor all scholarships of affected student-athletes who want to continue studying at Wright State. Under NCAA transfer rules, students are immediately eligible for competition when the students' original institution discontinues the sport in which the students practiced or competed.
Wright State Athletics and university staff are committed to providing support to these student-athletes through the transition process. Members of the athletics compliance staff, academic staff and leadership team are available to discuss scholarship, transfer information, academic advisement and counseling resources.
Wright State Athletics Program Changes FAQ
What are the reasons for the reduction in sports?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wright State Athletics is working to reduce expenditures as part of university-wide budget reductions. The university instructed Athletics to significantly reduce the university’s financial support to the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics by nearly 20 percent ($2 million) for fiscal year 2021 and beyond.
Why is this being done now?
There is no ideal time to make decisions such as eliminating sports. As Wright State looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant financial deficit, the decision was made to allow the student-athletes as much time as possible to find a new school where they can continue in their sports, if they choose to go that route. This also allows the affected coaches time to find new positions.
How many student-athletes and coaches are affected?
With the elimination of these three sports, we anticipate that 39 student-athletes (30 women and 9 men) and six coaches will be affected.
What impact will this decision have on Title IX requirements?
Our department has had more participation opportunities for women than men for a number of years. Participation should be proportionate to full-time undergraduate enrollment. Our participation has not been proportionate to full-time undergraduate enrollment since 2012. Women’s participation rate is well above the rate of undergraduate enrollment and is outside of the safe harbor range identified by the Office of Civil Rights.
Our financial aid distribution has also been out of balance in favor of female student-athletes since 2003. The compliance standard requires that scholarships be distributed equally between men and women based on their unduplicated headcount. That is, if 50 percent of student-athletes are males, then they should receive 50 percent (within plus or minus 1 percent) of the scholarships awarded. In 2018 women received 52.9 percent of the financial aid while comprising slightly less than half of all student-athletes.
How did Wright State alert the affected student-athletes to these changes?
As COVID-19 social distancing guidelines don't allow for a team meeting, Director of Athletics Bob Grant met with the student-athletes via video conference on Wednesday afternoon, June 3.
How did Wright State choose which sports would be eliminated?
The university considered many factors, including the number of student-athletes, budget impact and athletic facilities.
Will affected student-athletes' scholarships be honored?
Yes. The university will honor all athletic scholarships of affected student-athletes who want to continue studying at Wright State University and will complete their degree in four years. Students must adhere to all NCAA, university and athletic department policies to maintain eligibility and receive aid.
Can student-athletes transfer to other NCAA programs?
Yes. Under NCAA transfer rules, a student is immediately eligible for competition when the student’s original institution discontinues the sport in which the student practiced or competed.
How are your 2020 signees affected by today’s news?
Wright State will honor the incoming National Letter-of-Intent (NLI) signees’ athletic scholarships. These prospective student-athletes may pursue other athletic opportunities if they choose to compete at another university.
How is Wright State helping the affected student-athletes?
Wright State Athletics and university staff will support these student-athletes through the transition process. Members of the athletics compliance staff, academic staff and leadership team are available to discuss scholarship, transfer information, academic advisement and counseling resources.
Is the economic fallout from the pandemic causing other universities to modify or eliminate athletic programs?
Yes. Because of the depth and severity of the economic impact caused by the coronavirus, universities around the country have announced plans to eliminate positions, freeze or reduce athletics personnel salaries, and cut entire athletic programs, all to better ensure the long-term health of their institutions as a whole.