Wright State’s Olivia Otani fires a pitch plateward against Northern Kentucky on April 2, 2019. Joseph Craven/CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Wright State will seek waiver to remain in Division I after cutting three sports

AD Bob Grant said his department has to cut $2 million from budget

Bob Grant called Wednesday the worst day of his professional career.

Speaking on a video conference call with local media an hour after Wright State University announced it was dropping its softball and men’s and women’s tennis teams in a cost-cutting move, the longtime athletic director Grant said he was heartbroken and sick after informing six coaches and 39 student-athletes of the news.

“This is so counter to our people-first culture,” Grant said. “These student-athletes that are affected by this are really part of a group of some of the most engaged and most diverse and highest achievers on this campus.”

According to Wright State’s press release announcing the cuts, it is “implementing a multi-year plan that will stabilize operations in the midst of lower projected enrollments and declining state support.”

Grant said the pandemic has “turned the world upside down and affected so many many people and many many businesses, including higher education and college athletics. It’s now sort of reached our shores, and we’ve been tasked in athletics at Wright State with $2 million in cuts — and that’s a lot. It’s about 20 percent. We’re consistently funded at the bottom of the state and spend at the bottom of the state. It’s the same within the Horizon League.”

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Wright State’s announcement comes during a spring that has seen 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.

Softball coach Laura Matthews, a 2008 University of Dayton graduate who spent five years as the head coach at Wittenberg, reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, “Words cannot express how devastated I am, and I haven’t fully processed this yet. I am honored to have coached a group of tremendous women who exemplify everything student-athlete should be. They deserve better than this.”

Matthews also asked other coaches to reach out to her for any questions about her athletes. The 2020 Wright State roster included a number of local graduates: Carly Turner (Kenton Ridge); Raidyn Johnson (Beavercreek); Cameron Wesley (Lakota West); Grace Gressly, Madison Hartman and Brianna Hutchinson (Lebanon); and Rebekah Lenos (Madison).

The men’s tennis team included two local graduates last season: senior Carlos Estrada Sanchez (Chaminade Julienne); and redshirt sophomore Daniel Rodriguez (Beavercreek).

The women’s tennis team included Beavercreek graduate Anna Jones, a senior, and Carroll graduate Jillian Milano, a junior.

Waynesville graduate Ben Roeser had coached both tennis teams since 2017.

Wright State will now sponsor 11 sports (six on the women’s side and five on the men’s). The NCAA requires Division I schools to sponsor at least seven men’s sports and seven for women or six men’s sports and eight for women, so it will seek a waiver from the NCAA to remain in compliance.

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“I know many other schools are in similar situations,” Grant said. “The waiver is in place for situations like this.”

Grant expects the NCAA to give Wright State a year or two to come up with a plan to return to the minimum number of scholarship sports (14) required to remain in Division I.

“That can actually be different sports,” Grant said. “You can cut football and bring back women’s golf if you want to. We will in the next week or so start a plan within our department to work with the NCAA. What’s the timeline look like? What do expenses look like? What makes sense? What’s realistic for us? I think we’ll be on that right away.”

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