Competitiveness, funding, compliance goals of USD athletic department three-year plan More scholarships, facility upgrades on the way; baseball program will end University of South Dakota Athletic Director Joel Nielsen, citing competitiveness, funding and compliance, announced Tuesday that the South Dakota Athletics Department will take numerous actions in a three-year, three-prong plan.
The cornerstone of the plan is a commitment to invest $1.126 million in the athletics program during the next three years. These new funds will be directed to scholarships, facility enhancement, expanded staff, recruiting and other areas.
This announcement of the initial phase of the plan follows a 12-month review of the department by an Athletic Review Committee, appointed by USD President James W. Abbott in April 2003. The review committee, chaired by Julie Greenfield of Sioux Falls, submitted a preliminary report to Nielsen on March 26.
The report contained an assessment of all 18 USD athletic programs, based on a predetermined set of criteria. After submission of the report, Nielsen assessed the committee's recommendations, and in consultation with President Abbott and Vice President of Finance and Administration Greg Redlin, developed a plan that addresses competitiveness, funding and compliance.
The Athletic Review Committee will continue to develop a more long range strategic plan for future release.�
"I want to thank the Athletic Review Committee for its contributions during the past 12 months and look forward to their continuing work as we build a strategic plan for the future," said Nielsen. "They have submitted preliminary recommendations that we believe keeps our athletic program on high ground. I am encouraged that we are making substantial changes that bring equity to our athletic program."
In this plan, Nielsen said USD will make substantial increases in its women's sports budget, while also making corrective measures in participation levels, increasing female participation opportunities by 23 percent.
The plan calls for the addition of 19 women scholarships, increasing the women's recruiting budget, and upgrading facilities.
This plan also retains competitive funding for all programs (male and female). USD will finance this new plan through internal reallocation, student fees and increasing fund raising efforts. As part of this action, USD will discontinue its baseball program following the 2004 season.
As has been the case at various schools across the nation, including in the North Central Conference, budgeting problems have forced the discontinuation of athletic programs. Nielsen noted that ending baseball at USD was a difficult decision, given the tradition of baseball at the school and the impact it would have on 38 student-athletes, as well as the coaching staff of the program.
However, the decision was in the best interest for the future of Coyote Athletics, he said. The move to discontinue baseball will allow $100,000 to be reallocated, including 2.5 scholarships, to other programs.�
"I am saddened that this measure to discontinue baseball had to be taken," said Nielsen. "However, we have to address the problems at hand. It is important that we have an athletic program that operates under fiscally responsible objectives, meets competitiveness expectations, while addressing gender equity and Title IX requirements.
"I want the student-athletes in the baseball program to know that we will do everything we can to help them," said Nielsen. "We will assist them in relocating to other programs, if that is their intention."
The members of the baseball team will be able to transfer to other NCC schools or to other NCAA Division I, II and III or NAIA programs.
"We certainly want to thank Coach Brian Atchison for six years of dedication to the baseball program and the university," said Nielsen. "We also want to thank the baseball student-athletes for their hard work and commitment."
During his time at South Dakota, Atchison had a record of 139-116 at South Dakota, including a 47-61 mark in the NCC.
The recommendations by the review committee reaffirmed USD's commitment to Division II and its continued competitiveness within the North Central Conference. USD will now have 17 varsity sports competing at the NCAA Division II level. In the short run, Nielsen does not expect to add any new sports. He also noted that the university does not have any plans to make further cuts in its athletic programs.
"What we have identified are targeted goals," said Nielsen. "We will continue to assess and make adjustments as the situation warrants. Our main focus must be to operate under fiscally sound strategies, while doing what is in the athletic department's best interests."
Nielsen said that the entire athletic program has to meet an increased level of accountability and shared responsibility.
"We must incorporate the measures outlined in our plan or we may have to take further action down the road," he said. "However, I have confidence in our staff, as they been extremely cooperative and helpful in this process. Working together and sharing responsibility will be the key to successful implementation of this plan."
Included in USD's plan is the addition of 19 scholarships for women's sports and increasing the female coaching staff.
The staff additions will include a full-time senior women's administrator, a recently hired assistant women's volleyball coach, two graduate assistants for women's track and field and one graduate assistant for women's soccer.
Additionally, USD will upgrade the salary of both the golf and women's tennis coach. �The safety and health of the Coyote student athletes will also be addressed through the addition of four graduate assistants in the sports medicine program.
USD will put $350,000 into upgrading the locker room facilities for female athletes in the DakotaDome. Another $80,000 will go to upgrading the soccer, softball and women's tennis facilities and fields. Additionally, USD will add $25,000 to the women's recruiting budget.
"The decision to discontinue baseball, address roster management, and other actions came after the review committee made a series of recommendations to address deficiencies in the athletic department. Most important, these measures are necessary for us to incorporate equity and fairness among the men's and women's programs at USD," said Nielsen. "We believe we are doing what is best in the department's short- and long-term interests."
Summary of objectives
1. Roster management. USD will incorporate roster management in its athletic programs. USD will take a number of actions to correct the differential between female and male athlete participation.
In terms of male sports, football will immediately capped at 95, a reduction from the 113 reported in 2002-03. Other male programs will be required to adhere to roster caps. In terms of women's sports, the roster sizes will increase over the three-year time frame.
The increase of 61 female participants moves the total to 267, creating a 52 to 48 percent female to male differential.
2. Survey female student body. USD will conduct a survey of female students at USD to determine the preferences of sports and the perspective about female athletics at USD.
3. Create a gender equity oversight committee. In an effort to more closely monitor USD's compliance to Title IX issues, USD will establish a Gender Equity Oversight Committee that will be responsible for ensuring that student interests and abilities are being addressed.
4. Add 19 female scholarships. These scholarships will be funded and implemented over a three-year period.
5. Implement and fund equipment, supply and travel policies.
6. Additional staff. The staff additions will include a full-time senior women's administrator, a recently hired assistant women's volleyball coach, two graduate assistants for women's track and field and one graduate assistant for women's soccer.
Additionally, USD will upgrade the salary of both the golf and women's tennis coach. �
7. Facility improvement and upgrades. Facility improvements will include remodeling the women's locker room area. USD will implement a facilities-related capital improvement and maintenance plan, which will include shower and locker room upgrades for the female sports at an estimated cost of $350,000.
In addition, USD will address the outdoor practice and competition facilities for softball, soccer and women's tennis. The total cost for these improvements is $80,000.
8. Sports Medicine. Concerning the continuing safety and health of student-athletes, USD will add four graduate positions in the sports medicine area.
9. Enhance the recruiting budget for women's sports. An additional $25,000 will be added to the women's recruiting budget to balance the difference between the men's and women's programs.