The Athletics Department recommendation was contained in a report submitted to university President Jolene Koester after a months-long study. Koester in June had asked the department to make recommendations on a future course that would ensure balanced budgets, a successful athletics program overall and progress in gender equity.
Northridge Athletics Director Dick Dull called the recommendation one of the most difficult he has had to make in his long career in intercollegiate athletics. "Head Coach Jeff Kearin and his players have represented Northridge with great style and dignity, but the football program simply has not generated the support it needs to survive," Dull said.
"The extraordinary costs associated with running a football program, without any significant contribution from the sport to offset its expenditures, make the continuance of this sport problematic," said Dull, noting that many other California universities have faced the same tough choice in recent years.
In receiving the Athletics Department report, President Koester pledged to widely circulate the department's report and recommendations among on-campus groups and in the community in the coming weeks. The report and an e-mail link for submitting comments on the report are available athttp://www.csun.edu/~hfpre001/athletics.html.
After considering the report and responses to it, Koester said she will make a final decision by Thanksgiving.
The department report cites a series of factors for its recommendation. Chief among them are athletics budget shortfalls projected at $725,000 this year and expected to reach nearly $1 million-a-year by 2004-05, combined with a football program that costs more than $1 million-a-year as Northridge's most expensive sport, but generates very little revenue.
Facing similar budget problems in 1997, the university then decided to discontinue four men's sports other than football, but later rescinded that decision amid pledges of increased private support. In subsequent years, however, significant increases in private financial support for Northridge athletics have not occurred.
Other factors cited in the report are the university lacking appropriate football facilities and having little prospect of generating the private funds to build them; Northridge last year joining the Big West Conference, which no longer hosts football as a conference sport; and football hampering Northridge's efforts to improve its gender equity in athletics.
If athletics' report is accepted, Dull said the university would try to cushion the loss of its football team. Football players with athletics scholarships at Northridge could have those continued for the remainder of their eligibility or transfer elsewhere, while the coaching staff could remain employed through June.
Even without football, Northridge would continue to offer one of the broadest intercollegiate sports programs among comparable institutions, fielding 20 sports, 10 for men and 10 for women. The department had a $7.8 million budget last year and involves more than 500 student-athletes.
Because of football's high costs and impact on gender equity, at least eight California universities have dropped the sport in the past decade, and more in prior years. Among those, NCAA Division I schools that ceased football in the 1990s included University of the Pacific (1996), Cal State Fullerton (1993) and Long Beach State (1992).
Northridge's football program has struggled in recent years. Last season, the team posted a record of 4-7 overall and 2-6 in conference in its last season in the Big Sky Conference. At the end of last season, CSUN had a cumulative football record of 178-225-4.
@csun | October 8, 2001 issue
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