Posted on 26 January 2017.
DALTON–(Jan. 26)–Dalton State College will cut four NAIA-sponsored sports teams, the cheerleading program, add one sport, and scale back two others as it reorganizes its intercollegiate athletics program into one it can afford to maintain.
Men’s and women’s tennis will be dropped from the 10-team roster as will women’s volleyball and men’s cross country. The cheer program, which is not an NAIA sanctioned sport at Dalton State, will be eliminated, and scholarships for men’s soccer and men’s golf will be scaled back unless or until private support can be developed to bring them back to full strength.
The other remaining sports: men’s basketball, women’s soccer, women’s golf, and women’s cross country, will also be financially impacted but on a smaller scale. Women’s track and field will be added with athletes from the cross country team participating.
Administrators estimate that program cuts and other budget tightening measures will save approximately $1 million.
“The good news is that athletics continues at Dalton State but in a more sustainable fashion,” said Interim Athletic Director Jon Jaudon. “This plan allows us to maintain the excellent results we desire. Our goal is to compete for and win conference and national championships.”
The new configuration of seven sports teams will not only be more financially sustainable but will bring the program into compliance with Title IX requirements for gender equity. Jaudon explained that allocation of athletic participation and resources must ultimately reflect the 60/40 female to male composition of the Dalton State student population.
The new model takes effect July 1.
“To say this has been a difficult process is an understatement,” said Dr. Margaret Venable, president of the College. “These teams have performed spectacularly, and many of these athletes are also very fine students. They came here to play and earn a Dalton State degree. They will no longer be competing as Roadrunners, and some of them will leave us to continue their athletic careers elsewhere. That is understandable, and we wish them the very best. Those scholarship athletes who wish to stay to complete their degrees here will receive financial assistance to do so.
“I apologize to the athletes, their coaches, their families, and their fans that we have to take this difficult action; there just is no other alternative,” she said. “We must design an athletic program we can afford to maintain.”
Jaudon said he is cautiously optimistic that sufficient financial support will be developed to maintain men’s soccer and golf at or near their current levels. “The support for our teams and athletics as a whole continues to be very high. That support is needed more than ever as we strive for excellence,” he said.
The College’s athletic program grew from seven sports to 10 (plus cheer) in its first three years, outpacing financial resources available to sustain it. Despite generous support from private donors, disbursement of initial start-up funds was accelerated beyond their associated timelines. The financial model reflected revenue distributions where 65 percent were coming from private sources and only 35 percent deriving from predictable revenue sources, including student fees.
The program’s financial woes first came to light during a routine Presidential Transition Audit ordered by the University System of Georgia following the appointment of Venable as president in 2015. A deeper dive into the books revealed the weakness of the financial model and the fact that most of the start-up funds had been depleted years ahead of schedule. Jaudon joined the department as Interim Athletic Director last July after a search for a fulltime AD was suspended in light of financial shortfalls.
“Our athletic program remains a vital part of the Dalton State experience, and it is critically important as we strive to become a first-choice destination college to students of this region and beyond,” Venable said.