(Courtesy UNK Athletics)
KEARNEY, Neb. – Facing a $3.4 million budget gap, University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen today announced unprecedented campus reductions that include eliminating Loper baseball, men’s tennis and men’s golf programs.
The athletics news was discussed today at a campuswide budget forum that also includes personnel and operational reductions in UNK administration and support staff ($837,000), faculty ($1.52 million), and business and facilities personnel ($829,475). The sport reductions will save UNK $450,000 annually.
“The fact that we developed these recommendations collaboratively across campus doesn’t lessen the negative impact on faculty, staff and students,” Kristensen said. “Sport elimination is particularly difficult because it directly impacts 56 student-athletes and 10 incoming freshmen.”
UNK Director of Athletics Paul Plinske said student-athletes’ scholarships will be honored through their remaining eligibility. and UNK will support the athletes in their efforts to find new teams, and to transfer if they desire.
“This is a very tough day for Loper athletics,” said Plinske. “Difficult times require difficult decisions, and none are as hard as those that affect the lives of our students.
“We will stay focused on being positive about the many accomplishments of these teams and will support our student-athletes and coaches who are most affected by this news.”
Kristensen said a careful analysis of the costs associated with offering 17 sports was conducted. While the average number of sports offered by MIAA peers is 13.4, UNK’s lineup of 17 sports is the most of any public university in the conference.
“Title IX compliance prohibited our consideration of eliminating any women’s sport and the MIAA conference requires sponsorship of football and basketball,” he said. “From there we analyzed operational and personnel costs, facility and travel costs, and looked at sports that lack opportunity for home competitions because of Nebraska’s spring climate.”
“We’ve done our best for a long time and have asked a lot of our supporters over the years, but unfortunately 17 sports are not sustainable given the economic environment,” Plinske said. “These student-athletes are tremendous ambassadors for our university and deserve our support as they complete this season.”
Plinske said three coaching positions will be phased out over the next year while the women’s tennis coaches will remain on staff.