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Hawaii Hilo announced a two-year suspension of its men’s and women’s cross country programs as part of an effort to reduce its budget while maintaining the viability of the athletics department. The suspension also applies to the cheerleading squad.
Athletics Director Dexter Irvin said the saving of approximately $100,000 in operational, salary and scholarship funding per academic year will be added to a 10-percent operational savings he established at the beginning of the fiscal year.
“We’ve been able to stay in the black for the past two years but like everyone else we also need to cut back,” said Irvin. “We looked at many scenarios but felt that this move would have the least effect on our student-athletes’ academic opportunities and our program’s competitiveness.”
During the 2010-11 academic year, 120 athletes have been on athletics scholarship. Six were affiliated with the cross country program. Those would not be affected by the suspension, Irvin said.
A release on the school’s website said that among the challenges Irvin faces in his second year at Hawaii Hilo are “the increasing cost of travel and education while trying to balance a budget that is currently funded below the NCAA Division II national average.”
“We are part of a 7 percent decrease in scholarships as well as a probable 7 percent decrease in our operational funding,” said Irvin. “We have made significant reductions in many programs and we cannot continue to make overall program reductions without sacrificing student-athlete well-being.”
Cross country was started in the 1980s. Under similar fiscal conditions, the programs were suspended during the 1989 and 1990 seasons before being reinstated during the 1991 season. During the 20-year stretch since, the Vulcans claimed three conference championships and were consistent participants in postseason races.
The suspensions leave the Vulcan athletics program with six women’s sports (basketball, golf, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball) and five men’s sports (baseball, basketball, golf, soccer and tennis).