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Ohio Athletics announces change to sport offerings

ATHENS, Ohio (Jan. 25, 2007) -- The Ohio Department of Athletics has announced that men's indoor and outdoor track and field, men's swimming and diving, and women's lacrosse will no longer be offered as varsity sport programs, effective at the conclusion of their respective 2007 seasons. The move will reduce the number of programs offered by Ohio from 20 to 16.

"Ohio Athletics is committed to being a Division I-A program that serves and supports the educational mission of Ohio University, and serves as a source of pride for the Athens community and the state of Ohio," Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt said. "Yet we are faced with some significant problems that have been in existence for several years.  This announcement is the first step towards addressing those issues.  If we don?t make these tough decisions now, we would place our entire program at risk."

Ohio currently sponsors 20 sports, the second-largest program in the Mid-American Conference and the 39th-largest program in Division I-A (out of 119 Division I-A programs).  However, the Ohio athletics budget ranks in the bottom half of the MAC.

Ohio is the eighth school presently competing in the MAC to have eliminated sport programs since 1999. 

In addition to the financial implications, the quality of the available student-athlete experience and compliance with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 were also factors in the decision-making process. 

"We will accept nothing short of providing all of our student-athletes with a positive environment to achieve their academic and athletic aspirations," Hocutt said. "Our financial situation has prohibited us from providing the level of experience that we as an administration and our University expect. In addition, we have not met our goal of compliance with Title IX. We are not in the financial position to add a women's program, and therefore must take alternative measures to continue our commitment to compliance with this federal statute."

Swimming and diving was first made a varsity sport for men at Ohio University in 1935, while track and field has competed since the early 1900s. The women's lacrosse program was reinstated in 1999 after competing as a varsity sport from the late 1960s through 1982. 

Student-athletes currently participating in the affected sports who plan to stay and complete their undergraduate education at Ohio University will continue to receive grants-in-aid at their current levels for a period equal to their remaining eligibility. Ohio Athletics will also provide assistance to those student-athletes who wish to transfer to another institution to continue their athletic careers.  In total, 87 student-athletes will be affected by this decision. 

"This decision follows hundreds of hours of comprehensive research and study over an extended period of time, both by my staff and others within the university," Hocutt said. "We have made an extremely difficult decision that will place us in the very best position to be successful in the future."

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Media Contact: Associate Director of Athletics for Communications Derek Scott, 740-593-0834 or scottd2@ohio.edu

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