news 3 days ago

College of Central Florida in Ocala is ending basketball and volleyball programs

Ocala Star-Banner, Fla. — Joe Callahan Ocala Star-Banner, Fla.

Dec. 02-- Dec. 2--The College of Central Florida has announced it is ending its men's and women's basketball programs, as well as women's volleyball, after this season. Baseball and softball still will be offered.

CF spokeswoman Lois Brauckmuller said the decision was the culmination of months of budget analysis and discussion. The move was necessary to trim the budget so CF can concentrate on its core mission of education.

The teams will finish out their seasons through 2019-20. The programs will not compete beginning in 2020-21.

"The decision wasn't taken lightly," Brauckmuller said. The cuts are expected to save the school $600,000 annually.

The news comes six years after CF won a national men's basketball championship.

"I was just told at 10:30 this morning," said Tim Ryan, who has been the men's head basketball coach for 17 seasons, during an interview on Monday. "I have nothing negative to say. I just want to say I appreciate the community for its support. I love this community. This is where I raised my children."

The news was emailed to CF employees just before noon Monday. The email was sent by CF President James Henningsen, who noted that CF has had a 23% decline in enrollment since 2010.

During the national recession, CF hit record enrollment. As unemployment has plummeted to one of its lowest levels in decades, CF enrollment has followed suit.

"While state funding has increased slightly, the difference is not significant enough to cover the cost of ongoing operations," Henningsen wrote. "We have managed the decline over the last few years, but need more significant changes to remain sustainable and to be able to invest in our students, our team and community needs."

CF conducted a review of all expenses, looking to find ways to cut without affecting the core education mission.

"The landscape for funding public higher education is getting more challenging by the year," the president wrote. "This pressure is felt by colleges across the country as they reassess their missions and programs and focus on the highest priorities with the resources available."

Henningsen said CF athletics have been among the highest performing programs in the country, "both in the classroom and on the courts and fields."

"This is attributable to the quality of our athletics administration, coaching staff, and student-athlete support systems," he continued. "Significant resources are dedicated to CF Athletics, and expenses include scholarships and waivers, housing and meal supplements for students."

Of the 89 students on scholarship, only four reside from the local service area, Henningsen said.

"Based on college-wide input, and extensive senior staff discussions, we will downsize our athletics programs from five teams to two teams effective July 1, 2020," he wrote. "We will close the volleyball and men's and women's basketball programs and will continue to offer the baseball and softball programs."

Henningsen said the college can save $600,000 annually.

"We do not make this decision lightly," he noted. "We appreciate the dedication of our coaches over the years who have impacted the lives of thousands of students and developed winning CF teams. Still, we must grapple with maintaining affordability and quality while addressing critical workforce needs in our community and supporting our team members who deliver excellence.

"While we are exploring additional efficiencies, the timing and streamlining of our athletics program requires an immediate action. We want to be sure that student-athletes have the opportunity to explore transfer options to other institutions," he wrote.

Scholarships for affected student-athletes will be honored for the spring semester.

Joe Callahan can be reached at 867-4113 or at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.

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