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Tech shocker: School will drop football

Move being made to cope with state budget cuts: Officials

The Daily Mining Gazette
March 18, 2003

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech University’s 82-year-old football program is being eliminated in a cost-cutting move, Athletic Director Rick Yeo announced this morning.

Yeo, in a statement, said the decision to drop the program was one of the most difficult in his career.

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“While we are sensitive to the fact that this will be an unpopular decision in the eyes of many, particularly those it directly impacts, we are also firm in our beliefs that this is the best decision for the overall well-being of the athletic program,” Yeo said.

Yeo said there weren’t a lot of options in the department’s budget. The university is asking all units and divisions to cut their budgets 10 percent this year, with additional cuts expected in coming years. The cuts are in response to reductions in state higher education funding. Tech will lose $5.6 million next year in state appropriations.

“When you’re forced to make the significant budget reductions we were asked to, there really weren’t a lot of options,” he said. “Our programs are already operating with no room for error and to come up with the cuts we needed to, eliminating one of our major programs was really the only option.”

Athletics department officials didn’t return phone calls late this morning.

Team members said the announcement was completely unexpected.

Tom Williams, a junior offensive tackle from Freeland, Mich., said the team was ready for its morning run today when coaches arrived with the news.

“A lot of guys were in tears,” WIlliams said.

Seth Ebel, a senior member of the offensive line and a captain of next year’s team, said he is disappointed there was no warning.

“It’s hurting a lot of people right now, more than they know,” he said.

Ebel said the decision would affect about 90 students on the team and about seven coaches.

Tom Wolf, a junior strong safety from Traverse City, said coaches, including head Coach Bernie Anderson, appeared to be equally devastated by the decision.

“He (Anderson) was fighting back tears and he was fighting back the same shock and disorientation that we were experiencing,” Wolf said.

Williams said he was disappointed because the team was looking for a strong season after finishing with a 3-7 record last year. Williams, an electrical engineering major, said many teammates didn’t know what their future plans will be.

“We had our future planned out here — we play at Tech, get a degree and go on with our life,” he said.

February was a major deadline for universities to set their rosters for next year — meaning that other universities can’t add Tech players without cutting others. Williams said coaches have been supportive of players’ future plans.

Wolf said that he’s planning to remain at Tech to finish his degree in civil engineering.
“That’s the one thing I want to do,” Wolf said.

Yeo said players with scholarships would continue to receive their money through graduation, as long as they remain in good academic standing. When current football scholarships become available, they could be distributed to other athletes.

Coaches will be allowed to remain on staff through the end of the year to find other work.

Yeo said Anderson, who has coached Tech football for 19 years, will be given the opportunity to stay on staff in another position.

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Material from The Daily Mining Gazette © 2001-2004, Ogden News Publishing of Mich.