SAULT STE. MARIE ‐ Lake Superior State University will reduce the number of varsity athletic offerings from 15 to 14 varsity sports, with the elimination of women’s softball, effective at the end of the 2015‐16 academic year.
The decision to reduce the athletics portfolio, which was formally announced Friday, came after intense review of the University’s long-term structural deficit by a committee of LSSU administrators. A campus-wide directive was issued for departments to conduct strategic reviews of their programs, seek areas for potential savings and increased efficiencies, and to identify programs that have the highest potential growth.
“There was no easy decision,” said LSSU Director of Athletics Kristin Dunbar. “I never imagined we’d have to consider cutting sports. Since I’ve been the athletic director at the University, it’s been one of my priorities to add sports and help bring students to LSSU.”
With approximately 212 student‐athletes participating in the 15 varsity sports offered at LSSU to start the 2015‐16 academic year, through restructuring and a re-allocation of scholarships, the athletic department has set a goal to host 205 varsity student‐athletes in 2016‐17. The restructuring will also see a decrease in scholarships in regards to certain men’s programs, while increasing scholarships for the remaining women’s teams to ensure Title IX compliance.
The University will continue to honor current athletics financial aid agreements and scholarships for up to a total of four years for members of the softball team who wish to continue their education at Lake Superior State. LSSU has also begun the process of granting permission to coaches from other institutions to contact student-athletes about future opportunities.
The timing of the decision, with remaining games left on the season, was announced in order to provide student‐athletes with as much time as possible to fully consider their plans for the 2016‐17 academic year.
LSSU prides itself in continuing to deliver a wide array of athletic programs for a public institution of its size.
“LSSU values its athletic programs and knows that athletics help to build institutional identity, helps to recruit diverse students, and provides leadership and growth opportunities for its students,” LSSU President Tom Pleger said. “That said, we need to evaluate all of our programs to make certain that they are the right size for our institution and meet demand given our resources. These types of decisions are always difficult and LSSU used a committee to make recommendations for these changes.”
“LSSU is a great institution but right now we are feeling the impact of a declining enrollment and state support over the last decade,” continued Dunbar. “The athletic department has been requested to do its part and help with the University’s deficit. We are all in this together.”