WWU Football FAQ
Jan. 13, 2009
Western is currently facing significant budget challenges that require agonizing choices such as the decision to end the football program. We came to this decision only after looking at every other option then trying to find options we hadn't yet thought of. Our President, Bruce Shepard, insisted that we thoroughly explore every possibility. In the end, continuing to maintain a football program that was struggling to stay afloat was not fiscally feasible.
This has been a very difficult decision given both our long history and current success in football. We carefully evaluated all possible options for meeting budget cuts in the athletic department but kept returning to the central problem that the cut has to be substantial. Intercollegiate athletics is facing reductions not only in state funding, but also in scholarship dollars and operating money from endowments that are no longer yielding support. These losses have been compounded by inflation in travel costs outside of the control of the university.
Another key consideration was the prohibitive cost of running a NCAA Division II football program with a lack of geographically close opponents. Western was one of just five Division II schools to sponsor football in the western United States, including the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and Nevada. For the past several years, the Vikings have had to play a home-and-home schedule with the other four schools in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Universities throughout the country are facing similar fiscal struggles as our nation enters a recession, which economists are telling us will be deeper than any we've seen in our lifetimes. However, recession or not, Western is an outstanding university whose core academic mission will persevere. Our responsibility, as stewards of our university's future and the well being of our students, is to chart the least-damaging path to what will, inevitably, be better times.
Why wasn't more input sought from football supporters and others on the decision?
Program decisions like this must be conducted privately. Suppose we had announced that we would have to end the football program, if other solutions could not be found? Even if we found a way to save football, we would face significant ongoing challenges. Our best players and coaches would be headed elsewhere. No recruit or coach with other options would come near a program that's on such shaky ground. And, expenses are likely to increase. So, to protect programs overall, our university's process requires that the evaluation of such proposals be kept confidential until a decision is made. This was not a knee-jerk reaction; instead, it was a response to challenges that have been building in the athletics program for some time.
Can fundraising bring the football program back?
We cannot ethically commit to maintaining a program based on the hope that additional significant funding might be found in the future. The amount of money required to not only sustain the program today, but also in the years to come, is not a realistic possibility given the tough economic times we're currently facing.
Is there any chance the football program will come back?
Now that the decision has been made, it cannot be reversed. Players and coaches have begun to pursue other options. Given these circumstances, the decision is final. Our responsibility now rests with assisting current players and coaches in making this difficult transition.
Is this a sign that the University is in financial trouble?
Western's decision to end its football program comes at a time when many, including families and businesses, are making difficult choices. Western, like colleges and universities across the state and nation, is facing substantial reductions in spending because of the current economic crisis. However, Western remains financially solid and is committed to making difficult fiscal decisions, as needed, to ensure the continued excellence of Western's academic and other programs. Western has always been an institution of choice because of the high quality of its academic programs and that has not changed, nor will it. That principle drives all planning and budgeting at Western.
The final state budget is months away from completion. Why was this decision on the football program made now?
Although the state's budget process is far from complete, we made this decision now in order to afford coaches and student athletes the maximum opportunity to weigh their options. Contractual obligations to coaches will be fulfilled; scholarship commitments to student athletes choosing to remain at Western will be continued; and the university will facilitate the transfer process for those football players who want to play elsewhere. We join with members of the university community and the wider community in expressing gratitude and deep compassion for our colleagues - coaches and students - who worked tirelessly in service to us all.
Will other WWU athletic programs be affected?
The decision to drop football as an intercollegiate sport was not about the quality of the football program. Instead, it was directly related to the goal of ensuring that the University's other 15 intercollegiate sports remain strong and are positioned for continued excellence into the future. Our students and student athletes, campus community, alumni and friends have every right to expect that at a premier university such as Western, athletics will be supported in a way that provides a quality experience.
Some universities drop football programs, which are expensive to operate, in order to step up to Division I in other sports, such as basketball. Is this a possible scenario for Western?
At this time, Western has no plans to pursue Division I membership. Our decision to end the football program was entirely a funding issue. Division II is the appropriate level for Western's intercollegiate sports.
Why couldn't Western return to NCAA Division III or the NAIA to play football?
One of the reasons that Western decided to move from the NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1998 was because private schools in the states of Oregon and Washington began refusing to schedule us in football due to the strength and competitiveness of our program. Even if a move back to that level was possible, we would likely continue to have the same scheduling problems. Also, the NCAA would not allow a school to compete in Division III in one sport and Division II in all other sports.
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