Robert Morris University cuts seven Division I sports as part of athletics review

Robert Morris University recently announced it is phasing out seven NCAA Division I sports, thus reducing the total number of D-1 teams at the school from 23 to 16.

RMU is reducing its D-1 offerings as part of a strategic review process that has looked over every university unit. Robert Morris began the process in preparation for its next five-year strategic plan, which officials expect to complete and release to the public in the Spring of 2014.

The approximately $1.2 million in savings generated by phasing out seven sports will fund improvements for the remaining D-1 teams, including additional scholarships, facility upgrades and increased travel and recruiting budgets.

Eighty RMU student athletes will be affected by this decision. The men’s sports being cut are cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, and tennis. The women’s sports that are being canceled are field hockey, golf and tennis. Just one full-time coaching position is being done away with. The elimination of those sports will take place at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

Robert Morris University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Director of Athletics Dr. Craig Coleman delivered the news to the athletes and their coaches in person during meetings held at the school’s Moon Township campus.

Robert Morris will honor all scholarships currently being received by the impacted athletes and will assist those who wish to transfer. Under NCAA guidelines, student athletes who transfer from schools that have eliminated their sport do not have to sit out a season at their new school.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of the 2000s, RMU added several Division I sports as part of a plan to boost undergraduate enrollment and broaden its student recruiting base outside Western Pennsylvania. That strategy has worked, with the university welcoming record-setting freshman classes year after year, and increasing the number of students living on campus.

Robert Morris must now re-allocate its resources in order to manage its growth and provide excellent services to all students inside and outside the classroom, according to Dell’Omo. He pointed to RMU’s history of prudent financial management, which has produced balanced budgets each of the past 30 years while also growing the university’s endowment.

One of the primary reasons the university chose to reduce its Division I sports, according to Coleman, is that RMU has one of the largest budgets in the Northeast Conference but spends among the least per student-athlete, owing to the sheer number of sports it offers. He also added that making the university more attractive for another conference was not a motivating factor in the cuts this week.

With 23 sports, RMU offered more D-1 programs than larger schools like Pitt or West Virginia, and currently has approximately 560 D-1 athletes on its rosters. The Colonials are not the first university in the region to reduce athletic programs in recent years. Duquesne cut four teams in 2010 while Maryland cut seven in 2012.

The university considered several criteria in reducing sports: the number of student-athletes; competitive success; academic achievement; cost; the adequacy of facilities; compliance with Title IX; and whether a program was an NEC “sport of emphasis.” RMU sought to maximize its cost savings while impacting the fewest student-athletes. Money saved will be redirected back into the remaining Division I sports.

The men’s team sports remaining are basketball, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse and soccer while the remaining women’s team sports are basketball, cross country, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

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