The ailing economy has hit Pepperdine athletics students and faculty alike. On Friday the administration announced the discontinuation of two varsity sports programs men’s track and women’s swimming and diving as part of a university-wide effort to reduce expenses and raise financial efficiency. Additionally nine staff positions within the Department of Athletics have been cut.
Men’s track will be terminated following the 2008-2009 academic year. However for the swimming and diving team Friday’s announcement has since sparked efforts to fund the program for one more season.
“Enough people have stepped forward over the weekend to offer assistance and provide the funding for swimming and diving to compete for one more year said Roger Horne, sports information director for Pepperdine athletics.
Horne said he was unsure of the source of the funding but affirmed it will allow more time for recruits and current team members to decide whether or not they will remain at Pepperdine. It will also give next year’s seniors the opportunity to finish out their collegiate careers at Pepperdine.
According to Director of Athletics John Watson, the NCAA regulates that all Division 1 schools have a minimum of 14 sports programs, and Pepperdine currently has 16. Swimming and diving was cut chiefly because it exists outside of the West Coast Conference, the school’s primary conference affiliation.
Men’s track was cut to keep a balance for men’s and women’s participation” in athletics Watson said. The elimination of these two programs will leave the school with seven men’s and seven women’s sports following the 2009-2010 academic year.
Members of the cut programs will continue to receive their athletic scholarships until the end of their eligibility but the school will also assist those who opt to transfer.
“We told them if they choose to seek to transfer somewhere else we will expedite that process Watson said. If they choose to stay at Pepperdine we will honor their scholarship as long as they were going to stay with us.”
According to Jerry Derloshon director of public relations and news at Pepperdine 50 staff positions were cut university-wide on Friday. Nine of those are in the athletics division Watson said but he could not disclose which members of his department were laid off.
Affected staff will continue to receive salary and benefits until May 1. Until then the university will provide those employees with consulting services and a severance package.
“The actual final date of work will be coordinated on an individual basis to affect a smooth transfer of skills and knowledge wrote Derloshon in an e-mail. Managers will work with departing staff to accommodate their individual job searches leading up to May 1.”
Watson said the cuts are disappointing and challenging to him and his entire department; however they are simply an inevitable reality of a struggling economy.
“If [the economy] keeps plummeting and it has an impact on the abilities of families to send their children to private institutions … then the university is going to need to address those needs as they occur Watson said. We expect everything to move forward OK but we just don’t know. A year ago I didn’t think we’d be having this conversation.”