Universities Eliminate Football Programs

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
December 4, 2009

Two universities have announced plans to discontinue their football programs, becoming the latest casualties in college athletics as more institutions seek ways to cut costs.

Yesterday, to the shock of players and coaches, Hofstra University in New York announced that it would be eliminating its 72-year-old football program. In a similar move, officials at Northeastern University cancelled their football program on November 23. The Boston institution's football team had played for 74 seasons.

"I expect you will see these types of decisions accelerate at smaller institutions as they must make critical decisions," said E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, who was quoted in The New York Times. "In times of economic distress, academic programs should and will win out."

Indeed, Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra, told the Times that the university would allocate the $4.5 million typically invested in football towards scholarships and academic expenses. At Northeastern, officials similarly noted that the decision to end football was based on prioritizing where the institution should best invest its funds.

"Northeastern has always been guided by the principle that we should focus on our opportunities for leadership," said Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern, in a statement. "This approach ultimately leads to difficult choices, but leadership requires that we make these choices. This decision allows us to focus on our existing athletic programs. At a time when higher education is critically important to rebuilding our knowledge-based economy, universities have an obligation to invest resources in areas of strength--whether they are competitive athletic programs or cutting-edge academics."

College athletics officials were taken aback by Hofstra's announcement. "It's really a shock to me, a surprise," said Jack Cosgrove, head coach at the University of Maine, who was quoted in the Bangor Daily News. "It's not a good thing for college football to see this happen here in the Northeast in such a short period of time."

Blake James, director of athletics at UMaine, was quick to reassure players that there were no plans to cut football in the near future. "Football is an important part of the University of Maine athletic program," he was quoted as saying in the Bangor Daily News.

Many colleges have been cutting back on sports programs to help trim costs. Earlier this year, Western Washington University also announced plans to eliminate its football program. And in November, Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour recommended that the state's community colleges eliminate or downsize athletic programs.

Dan Turner, a spokesman for the governor, told the Meridian Star that cutting back on athletics is a necessary step to help trim costs. "The university and community college system's first order of business is education," he noted. "It is fun to play football and basketball, but few people make a living at it."

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