Five years ago, a period of CC history came to a close. On March 24, 2009, the announcement was made that football, as well as water polo and softball, would be cut.
It was a controversial and difficult decision for the school, but not one that they were unexperienced with. In 2009, a varsity sport had not been discontinued in 15 years; however, several sports have lost their varsity status throughout CC’s history. During the early ‘90s, CC cut baseball and golf. Before that, it was wrestling, gymnastics, skiing, and field hockey.
In December 2008, the Board of Trustees asked the administration to reduce the college’s budget by $8-12 million. This request came after the market value of CC’s endowment declined. All areas of the college were asked to make cuts and they had to make them quickly.
Athletics Director Ken Ralph says that the decision to cut football was entirely driven by this economic hardship. “The athletic department had to cut almost $700,000 out of our expense budget due the economic downturn,” explained Ralph.
“Unfortunately, due to the significant dollar figure, there was no way to do across-the-board cuts and make it work. We formed several committees including faculty, staff, students, and alumni to work the problem, and each group came back with exactly the same suggestion. Cutting the football program freed up over $600,000 on its own,” said Ralph.
The monetary realities did not make the choice any easier. “No one liked having to make this decision. We did not get into this business to eliminate opportunities for students, and to this day, it still feels terrible. In the end, there really were not any alternatives that would have worked out for us,” said Ralph.
Saul Levy, a CC graduate who played safety for the last football team, says that while he understands why the program was cut, he was still frustrated by its termination.
“I think the school did not understand the resources needed to build a successful football team in modern D-III football,” said Levy. He explained, “It is my understanding that the school’s budget only allowed for a certain number of full-time coaches. This number was inadequate relative to comparable school’s programs, and CC was therefore limited in the coaching staff it was able to assemble.”
“I think the in-place coaching staff was overwhelmed and incapable of matching comparable schools in terms of game preparation and recruiting. I don’t blame the school for the budget constraints. CC was one of the only DIII teams that needed to fly to every game because of geographical constraints. It was an uncomfortable and unfortunate situation, but I am at peace and no longer hold any ill feelings toward the college nor the decision,” said Levy.
The decision to disband the program was revisited in 2012. “The Board of Trustees reviewed the 2009 decision and agreed that it was not in the best interest of the college to reinstate the football program,” said President Tiefenthaler. “The review included studying the impact of reinstating a football program on admissions, financial aid, the budget, student life, alumni engagement and giving, the overall athletics program, the college’s reputation, Title IX compliance, and diversity. The board considers the matter closed. I don’t expect football to return in the foreseeable future.”
CC does not seem to have the motivation or the surplus of funds needed to bring back football.
“Most of the Division III schools that are adding football do not enjoy our same competitive position as a school. Many are adding football to generate applications, fill beds in residence halls, or to try to better balance out the male/female enrollment. We do not have to do any of those things. If the school were to have trouble attracting applicants, then maybe looking at football would be a huge positive,” said Ralph.
When asked his opinion on whether football would ever return to CC, Levy also thought that it wasn’t currently in the cards.
“Personally, I would love to see the program back, but it would need to be something the College was interested in and invested. I don’t think a football team is part of the school’s direction or future, unless someone new becomes involved and is adamant and willing to contribute significantly financially,” said Levy
The football program is integral to the story of CC. It shaped the experiences of many past students. So, while CC football may not be on the cusp of returning, it should still be remembered. As the campus fills with students who have never seen a CC football game, they should be reminded that when they walk past Washburn field, they are walking past a piece of the school’s history.