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September 30, 2020

La Salle University cutting 7 athletics teams amid financial challenges

Baseball, softball and tennis among affected programs

Education La Salle University
la salle athletics Source/La Salle University

La Salle is cutting four men's sports teams – baseball, swimming and diving, tennis and water polo – and three women's programs – softball, tennis and volleyball.

La Salle University is eliminating seven sports programs, a move officials say is needed to maintain a competitive athletics department.

The university’s board of trustees voted to reduce the number of athletics teams to 18 at the end of the academic year. The cuts affect four men's programs – baseball, swimming and diving, tennis and water polo – and three women's programs – softball, tennis and volleyball. 

President Colleen Hanycz and Athletics Director Brian Baptiste explained the cuts in a letter to the college community. 

"This action, while difficult, is necessary to ensure a stronger, more-sustainable athletics program and allows us to reinvest in our existing athletics teams," Hanycz and Baptiste wrote. "It is a critically important step toward building and strengthening a winning culture and a transformational experience for our student-athletes."

The decision was based on an analysis of the athletic department's budget and facilities, and an examination of other programs in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Officials said the move will allow them to boost the quality of the university's programs by reallocating resources. 

"Through this process, it has become abundantly clear that the existing sport-offering structure at La Salle is not a sustainable model for success," Hanycz and Baptiste wrote. "The size of our athletics department compromises our ability to provide an exceptional, transformational experience for our student-athletes. Our resources and support services for our student-athletes are stretched too thinly across too many sports teams."

The reductions will bring La Salle in alignment with the offerings of other Division 1 schools. The average A-10 member has 19 sports programs; the NCAA average is 18 teams. 

The university also attributed the cuts to rising costs and financial challenges faced by the athletics department. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic "further accelerated" the move, officials said.

"Simply put, La Salle Athletics cannot continue to sponsor 25 varsity sports at a competitive level," Hanycz and Baptiste wrote. "Sustaining an athletics department that offers more Atlantic 10-sponsored teams than any other in the conference at a university positioned in the conference's bottom-quartile in enrollment is not feasible."

The university would need at least $100 million in endowment, scholarship aid and capital investment in order to keep the seven programs afloat and "sustain their competitiveness and the high-quality experience expected by our student-athletes."

The university will honor the affected students' athletic scholarship aid through graduation at La Salle and help students transfer their academic credits and eligibility to another institution.

"Out of respect for our student-athletes, coaches and staff members, it was important to make this announcement as early in the academic year as possible, as to allow these members of our community ample time to consider their next steps," Hanycz and Baptiste wrote. "In particular, doing so now grants our affected student-athletes an extended period to discuss their futures with their families."

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