Moon Township, Pa. - Dec. 3, 2013 - Robert Morris University announced today that it is eliminating seven NCAA Division I sports, bringing the total number of Division I teams at the university from 23 to 16.
The university is reducing its Division I offerings as part of a strategic review process that has scrutinized every university unit. RMU undertook that process in preparation for its next five-year strategic plan, which Robert Morris officials expect to complete in 2014. The savings generated by phasing out seven sports will fund improvements for the remaining Division I teams, including additional scholarships, facility upgrades, and increased travel and recruiting budgets.
Eighty RMU student athletes will be impacted by this decision. The men's sports being eliminated are track (indoor and outdoor), cross country and tennis. The women's sports that are being eliminated are field hockey, golf and tennis. Only one full-time coaching position is being eliminated.
Robert Morris will honor all scholarships currently being received by the impacted athletes and will assist those who wish to transfer. Under NCAA rules, student athletes who transfer from schools that have eliminated their sport do not have to sit out a season at their new school. The sports in question will be eliminated at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
Dr. Craig Coleman, RMU Director of Athletics, conveyed the news to the athletes and their coaches in person during a meeting today at the university's Moon Township campus.
"Clearly, this is the most difficult decision I've faced as athletic director, and one of the hardest we've had to make as a university. I understand that our student-athletes are very upset by this news, and we apologize for the distress this has caused," said Coleman. "Nonetheless, this is the right decision to ensure that the university's present growth remains sustainable and that our student-athletes enjoy an excellent experience at RMU."
Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of the 2000s, RMU added several Division I sports as part of a strategy to boost undergraduate enrollment and broaden its student recruiting base outside western Pennsylvania. That strategy has borne fruit, with the university welcoming record-setting freshman classes year after year and with more students than ever living on campus.
RMU must now re-allocate its resources in order to manage its growth and provide excellent services to all students, inside and out of the classroom, said Gregory G. Dell'Omo, president of Robert Morris University. Dell'Omo pointed to RMU's history of prudent financial management, which has produced balanced budgets each of the past 30 years while also growing the university's endowment.
"We owe it to our students to be wise stewards of university resources and to deliver on our promise of a high-quality education that provides a high return on the investment they and their families make," said Dell'Omo. "I am sorry for those student-athletes who will not be able to continue in their sport at Robert Morris. We hope they choose to remain at RMU, and we will assist them in any way we can."
One of the primary reasons the university chose to reduce its Division I sports, according to Coleman, is that RMU has one of the largest budgets in the Northeast Conference (NEC) but spends among the least per student-athlete, owing to the sheer number of sports it offers. With 23 sports, RMU offered more Division I programs than Pitt or West Virginia, for example. Including the sports to be reduced, RMU has approximately 560 Division I athletes on its rosters.
The university considered several criteria in reducing sports: the number of student-athletes; competitive success; academic achievement; cost; the adequacy of facilities; compliance with Title IX; and whether a program was a NEC sport of emphasis. RMU sought to maximize its cost savings while impacting the fewest student-athletes. Money saved will be ploughed back into the remaining Division I sports.
"We want to give all our athletes a high-quality experience and that is getting harder to do given our available resources. This re-organization will allow us to make important investments in our Division I program," said Coleman.