By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The elimination of most athletic programs at colleges in Sheridan and Gillette will save those colleges $2.8 million, according to officials.
Officials with the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which encompasses both Sheridan College and Gillette College, said in a news release the cuts were part of a needed $3.96 million reduction in spending.
All eight of Wyoming’s community colleges are looking at spending cuts as they prepare their budgets for the coming year. However, one college, Casper College, specifically rejected the idea of cutting athletic programs.
Northern Wyoming Community College District trustees declared a financial emergency on June 18 due to the impacts from the coronavirus pandemic as well as imminent cuts to ongoing funding from the state.
The colleges have discontinued their men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball programs to save $2.8 million. The rodeo teams from both schools will continue, although with significantly reduced budgets.
“This decision was far from easy and definitely not something we wanted to take away from our student-athletes. However, we simply cannot maintain a vision that includes full-time coaches, full-ride athletic scholarships coming from our general fund, and expensive recruitment and travel,” said Walter Tribley, the district’s president.
Tribley said in the release that the long-term goal is to eventually bring back additional athletic opportunities at the Division III level of the National Junior College Athletics Association. The teams for both colleges had been competing in Division I of the NJCAA.
In addition to athletics, cuts were made to the district’s administration, two academic programs and the campus police departments.
The programs, culinary arts and hospitality management, will be discontinued and the district won’t fill several open administrative and staff positions and will implement reorganizations that will equal the savings of seven full-time positions. These cuts to the programs and administration total $500,000.
Sixteen positions were also eliminated.
The campus police departments will transition to a more “traditional format,” resulting in a $260,000 cut. Travel will be limited to essential trips only, which will result in $400,000 in savings.
“The changes we will be making as a district that yield the greatest ongoing savings were selected not because they were failing in any way,” Tribley said. “They were selected because the annual cost of the programs versus the annual revenue generated by those programs make them unsustainable during this time of financial crisis.”
All scholarships will be honored and students enrolled in discontinued academic programs will have the chance to complete their degree requirements. All athletes will be released from their commitments to the community college district.
“Our number one priority is our students. While these decisions will impact some students directly, it is the best way forward for our District to minimize negative impacts to the majority of our students,” said Tribley. “We look forward to continuing to provide an affordable, transferable high-quality education for all.”
Casper College officials, contacted by Cowboy State Daily, said they had no plans to take such action.
“Casper College remains committed to continuing our strong tradition of collegiate sports and is looking forward to bringing back our student athletes in volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and rodeo,” Chris Lorenzen, the college’s director of public relations, said in a statement. “In addition, we are very excited to kick off our inaugural season of men’s and women’s soccer.”
Lorenzen said the college continually monitors the cost of its athletic programs to make sure they can continue uninterrupted.
“Finally, we are aware of the financial costs of athletic programs and continually monitor expenses to ensure the financial benefits of enrolling student athletes as well as the student life and student experience benefits of our athletic programs remain sustainable,” his statement said.
Phone calls to the Northern Wyoming Community College Commission were not immediately returned.