New Wright State committee to discuss future of athletics

A special committee has been formed to look at the future of athletics at Wright State University.

The Special Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics will focus on athletics in higher education and recommendations around where Wright State will be best positioned moving forward, according to a statement from Wright State trustee chair Tom Gunlock.

The committee’s first meeting is Monday and that is when specific goals will be discussed, Gunlock said. The committee will be led by Wright State trustee Marty Grunder. Trustees Andrew Platt, Doug Fecher and Brittney Whiteside are also on the committee.

“Collectively this core group brings a depth of understanding and experience in university athletics and they may determine and request that additional members from the broader community be added as things move forward,” Gunlock said in the statement.

Jenasae Bishop was rated a Top 30 in the nation high school point guard recruit while at East Chicago Central High in Indiana and initially went to Boston College. A 5-foot-6 point guard, she transferred to Wright State last season. Her basketball ended this season after the third concussion of her college career.  Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics
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Jenasae Bishop was rated a Top 30 in the nation high school point guard recruit while at East Chicago Central High in Indiana and initially went to Boston College. A 5-foot-6 point guard, she transferred to Wright State last season. Her basketball ended this season after the third concussion of her college career. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

The special committee will look at intercollegiate athletics in a variety of ways, Gunlock said, including:

The current status and role of intercollegiate athletics for the university and the students attending the university.

Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on intercollegiate athletics both from a financial standpoint and participation from the athlete as well as the university overall. Will those impacts potentially be permanent?

What changes can we expect from the NCAA and how will those changes affect WSU?

How is athletics best positioned going forward to serve and support the university?

Gunlock said when considering those options, the group will be mindful of opportunities that benefit enrollment and retention efforts.

Wright State cut three sports last year: men’s and women’s tennis and softball. The move left Wright State with 11 sports, six for women and five for men. Seth Bauguess, a spokesman for Wright State, said the university has 194 undergraduate student athletes.

The elimination of the programs was part of a larger Wright State budget plan designed to stabilize operations as enrollment has declined, the school said. The COVID-19 pandemic “has accelerated the need for all areas of the university to reduce expenditures,” according to the university.

Wright State first baseman Gabe Snyder went 4 for 5 Thursday as the Raiders routed Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League baseball tournament. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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Wright State first baseman Gabe Snyder went 4 for 5 Thursday as the Raiders routed Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League baseball tournament. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“This is extremely difficult because of our strong belief that athletics is an integral part of the educational work we do at Wright State — the education of the whole person,” Wright State Director of Athletics Bob Grant said at the time. “This affects the lives of students who make up a group of some of the highest achievers on this campus. A group that is achieving at record levels academically, giving back to the community, and is strongly engaged with the university.”

The announcement came during a spring that saw a number of colleges athletic programs dropped across the nation and locally.

Sinclair Community College announced in May it was suspending its sports programs for the 2020-21 season. The University of Cincinnati discontinued its men’s soccer program in April. Urbana University closed its doors in May, forcing its athletes to find new homes.

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Grunder said he believed the non-academic parts of college play a critical role in a young person’s development.

“I’m passionate about all associated student life offerings at Wright State, and certainly athletics is a significant component of student life, both for the student athletes, but also for a spirit of comradery and the spirit of the school and everything else,” he said. “So I am anxious to be involved with this and see what we can do.”

Grunder said the committee was not formed in response to anything in particular, but the pandemic has impacted Wright State and its sporting events.

“Certainly, this disruption has given us an opportunity to look at the environment today and see if there are any hidden opportunities that Wright State University could take advantage of,” Grunder said. “I think it’s important that we be proactive about the future, rather than reactive.”

The university also recently announced plans to cut up to 113 faculty positions after several years of falling student enrollment.

ExploreWright State has $1.5B economic impact on the region. Will cuts affect that?

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.