Portland State University’s department of athletics announced the decision to discontinue the men’s golf program at the conclusion of the spring season in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
While a variety of elements contributed to the decision to drop the sport, the primary catalyst for the move is a projected $225,000 shortfall in the department’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“With a projected budget cut that could reach $225,000, there are a number of steps we’re going to have to take in managing the department and staying competitive,” Athletic Director Tom Burman stated.
“The fact that golf is not a core sport is a large part of the decision,” Burman continued. “With only five institutions in the Big Sky Conference competing in men’s golf, and two other schools considering dropping their programs, it’s a move that we need to make to try and maintain a high level of competition in our other programs.”
Because of the low instance of participation in men’s golf among Big Sky schools, the conference does not receive automatic qualification status for the conference champion in the NCAA championships, and as such, is not considered a core sport.
The slow economy is also complicit in the department’s decision to streamline its budget.
“The outlook for the economy to sustain corporate sponsorship is not hopeful,” Burman stated. “The deficit we’re looking at is considerable, and by eliminating the men’s golf program, we’re only addressing $80,000 of that.”
In its sixth year since making the transition from NCAA division II to division I, PSU is second among the eight member institutions in the Big Sky Conference with a total of 16 intercollegiate athletic programs.
President Daniel Bernstine, who signed his approval of the recommendation to discontinue men’s golf following a review by the Intercollegiate Athletics Board, doesn’t foresee any ancillary effects for the university in the wake of the program’s elimination.
“I don’t think so at all,” Bernstine said, in response to the question of whether eliminating athletic programs sheds negative light on the university’s image. “The elimination of men’s golf was a response to a need to address future shortfalls in the athletic department’s budget.”
The estimated savings of $80,000 is comprised of scholarship funds and travel expenses. Repeated attempts to reach coach Felicia-Marie Johnston, who oversees both the men’s and women’s teams, were unsuccessful. Johnston will remain at PSU as coach of the women’s golf team with no reduction in salary.
The additional deficit will be reduced as a result of a department-wide belt tightening.
“It’s always a challenge to balance the budget,” Burman said, “and we’ll have to make it tighter than ever next year. That means there’s going to be some shake-up internally.”
Student fees committee chairman Chris Moller underscored the issue by highlighting the fact that various programs campus-wide will feel the effects of next-year’s budget cuts.
“The university is going to get hit hard, with less funding from the education and general funds,” Moller said. “There’s going to be an effect on the athletic department, as there will be in programs across campus.”
While Burman conceded that cutting the men’s program provides “a minor benefit in terms of gender equity,” at the university, he asserted that because of the dearth of women’s athletic programs at PSU, Title IX didn’t factor heavily in the final decision.
The men’s golf team is coming off of one of its most successful campaigns in recent memory, finishing second among Big Sky schools in 2001. The team is slated to compete in five tournaments this spring with the conference championships to be held April 23-25.