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Released December 19, 2002
Board to approve discontinuation of MUW's intercollegiate athletic program at January meeting
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Mississippi University for Women President Claudia A. Limbert presented today to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning her recommendation to discontinue The W's intercollegiate athletic program and reallocate those funds to develop a fitness, recreation and intramural program to serve all its students.
The Board members said the recommendation will be approved at the Board's Jan. 16, 2003, meeting. Dr. Limbert's recommendation "has the Board's complete backing," Board President Bryce Griffis said after the presentation.
Only six Board members were present for the meeting and the lack of a quorum precluded the Board from acting today. Dr. Limbert said she would use the next month to explain the basis for the decision to The W family. "Although the decision will not be changed, it is personally important to me that all understand why this decision was made," Dr. Limbert said.
In expressing full support for Dr. Limbert's decision to discontinue the intercollegiate athletic program, Board member Ricki Garrett, a past president of the MUW National Alumni Association, said that "postponing the Board's action until January will give constituent groups time to digest information and understand why the decision was made."
Board member Amy Whitten said that this decision "assures that The W will be a strong, vibrant university. This action raises no specter of closure or merger and actually ensures that neither is a possibility."
In her presentation to the Board, Dr. Limbert said, "This decision was not made lightly and is in no way a reflection on The W's student-athletes, our coaches or the athletic director. All have performed admirably and represented the university with class. The W's athletes are excellent students in academics and all other phases of campus life. With the resources available to the university, it is not feasible to have both a successful intercollegiate athletic program and a top-flight fitness, recreation and intramural program. The university was presented with a difficult choice and the decision is to develop a program that serves all students at The W."
The reallocation of funds will not result in any cost savings to the university and no layoffs will accompany the transfer, according to Nora Miller, MUW's vice president for finance and administration. The W expects to have more funds to devote to fitness, recreation and intramurals for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2003, she stated. In addition to the reallocation of funds, the university will soon begin the process of replacing the Pohl Education and Assembly Building, which was destroyed by a tornado in early November.
"Our goal," Dr. Limbert explained, "is not to have the biggest recreation, fitness and intramurals facility in Mississippi; rather, our goal is to have the best facility for that purpose."
Tom Scarbrough, interim dean of enrollment at MUW, said, "We believe this decision will result in improved recruitment and retention at The W."
MUW Faculty Senate President Mark Bean said, "I know this was a very difficult decision to make, but I think this transition of resources can be in the best interest of the university in the long run."
Another factor affecting the timing of the decision was the university's desire to allow each student-athlete an opportunity to transfer to another school without losing eligibility. The coaches at MUW asked that this decision be made as soon as possible to allow students to assess their prospects for transferring to another school. The university has agreed to grant an immediate release and to assist any student-athlete who wishes to transfer.
Dr. Jo Spearman, athletic director, said, "This decision is extremely difficult to deal with personally, for our student athletes, their families, athletic staff and the entire MUW community. My entire life has in some way been in the sporting arena, so to see this program leave the university is very painful. This decision by the university was not based on one reason but for several. These are very difficult times and sometimes difficult and painful decisions must be made. I am very pleased that job security for the athletic staff and the scholarships for our student athletes will be retained for as long as they choose to remain at MUW."
Coach Glenn Schmidt, head basketball coach and NCAA compliance coordinator, added, "For those of us in athletics this is an extremely difficult decision to deal with. I am heartbroken for our athletes our former athletes and their families. When you have been in sports either as a fan, a player or a coach all of your life you are obviously pro athletics. Athletics, though a great part of a university is only one part of it. Our university has made a decision that directly affects our coaches, players, fans, alumni and entire athletic staff. While we in athletics may not have made this decision if it were ours to make, we understand that the university has made a decision based on its responsibility to the entire university."
The coaches, athletic director and Dr. Limbert will meet with the student-athletes upon their return next semester.
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