La Salle University announced on Tuesday that the will be cutting seven athletic programs including baseball, men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, men’s water polo, softball, volleyball, and women’s tennis at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 academic year.
The school released the following letter to the community:
To the University community,
At La Salle, we take considerable pride in our athletics programs. We know the passion and energy that stem from cheering on the Blue and Gold. Our student-athletes are well-rounded representatives of our community. These campus leaders and university ambassadors are committed to excellence in the classroom and on the field of competition. They are embodiments of our nearly 160-year-old mission to transform lives through a commitment to social justice and high-impact education.
In recent years, our historic and proud tradition in athletics has led to the expansion of our department through the addition of multiple intercollegiate programs. Today, La Salle sponsors more intercollegiate sports teams than any of our 13 peer institutions in the Atlantic 10 Conference and far exceeds the national average among NCAA Division I member institutions.
Our Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation led a thorough analysis of La Salle Athletics. This comprehensive review focused on critical outcomes for the department and our student-athletes, including:
- the elevation of the La Salle student-athlete experience;
- and improvements to the competitiveness and overall quality of our programs and department.
This review also included detailed assessments of the department’s budget and our university facilities, as well as an examination of peer programs nationally and in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Through this process, it has become abundantly clear that the existing sport-offering structure at La Salle is not a sustainable model for success. The size of our athletics department compromises our ability to provide an exceptional, transformational experience for our student-athletes. Our resources and support services for our student-athletes are stretched too thinly across too many sports teams.
We are writing to share difficult news: Today, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to reduce the number of La Salle’s intercollegiate athletics teams from 25 to 18 at the conclusion of this academic year.
This action affects the following programs: baseball; men’s swimming and diving; men’s tennis; men’s water polo; softball; volleyball; and women’s tennis. These programs will compete during this academic year, assuming conditions permit and if it is deemed safe to do so. This action will provide a better overall experience for La Salle’s remaining student-athletes and create a more sustainable environment for the University’s athletics department. This measure better aligns us with members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, which—on average—sponsor 19 intercollegiate athletics teams. The NCAA average is 18 teams.
Simply put, La Salle Athletics cannot continue to sponsor 25 varsity sports at a competitive level. Sustaining an athletics department that offers more Atlantic 10-sponsored teams than any other in the conference at a university positioned in the conference’s bottom-quartile in enrollment is not feasible. The rising costs associated with providing a high-quality Division I student-athlete experience and the financial challenges incurred by the department contributed to this decision. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the need for this change.
It’s important to note that this is not a cost-cutting decision, but rather a strategic effort to reallocate our investment in a way that better aligns with our student-centered mission. The athletics department has been underfunded, and our facilities and our support staff have been spread thinly in supporting 25 programs. Properly funding these programs at the level that would sustain their competitiveness and the high-quality experience expected by our student-athletes would have required a financial commitment of at least $100 million in endowment, scholarship aid, and capital investment. This decision will allow us to reinvest existing resources and improve our ability to provide an exceptional student-athlete experience in a competitive, high-quality Division I program.
We know how disappointing this announcement is for members of our community. We acknowledge that there is never an ideal time to make such an announcement. Out of respect for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff members, it was important to make this announcement as early in the academic year as possible, as to allow these members of our community ample time to consider their next steps. In particular, doing so now grants our affected student-athletes an extended period to discuss their futures with their families. (As you know, our fall semester concludes Nov. 25, just before the Thanksgiving holiday.)
Supporting our student-athletes
We are committed to caring for the approximately 130 student-athletes across seven sports who are affected directly by this decision. The timing of today’s announcement gives these student-athletes an opportunity to have a competitive season before making decisions about the future. It’s important to note that we will honor all existing athletic scholarship aid of the affected student-athletes through graduation at La Salle and will help students transfer their credits and eligibility, if they choose to compete at another university. For student-athletes who have been granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA due to the impacts of COVID-19, their scholarship and aid will continue at their current percentage for an additional year if they enroll in select graduate programs at La Salle.
This action, while difficult, is necessary to ensure a stronger, more-sustainable athletics program and allows us to reinvest in our existing athletics teams. It is a critically important step toward building and strengthening a winning culture and a transformational experience for our student-athletes.
It’s likely you have additional questions about today’s announcement. We have created an FAQ that provides additional information.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.
Brian Baptiste, J.D.
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation