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Tech football to be saved?

School, alumni working on plan

The Daily Mining Gazette
March 28, 2003

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech University alumni and administrators are working on a plan to return the football program to the gridiron this fall.

According to head coach Bernie Anderson, the Football Advisory Council, consisting mainly of alumni, is working with the university to make the football program self-sustaining.

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“I’m excited about the enthusiasm behind it and I’m optimistic that the Football Advisory Council will be able to work with this first draft (of the plan),” he said.

Anderson said the final plan needs the support of the council. He said a team meeting has been set for 7:30 a.m. Monday.

“The team will be the first to know the final word,” he said.

Athletic Director Rick Yeo announced March 18 that Tech’s 82-year-old football program would be eliminated in a cost-saving move. Yeo must cut 10 percent from next year’s athletics budget to comply with a universitywide directive from President Curt Tompkins.

The directive came on the heels of a March 5 announcement by Gov. Jennifer Granholm that Tech’s state appropriation would be cut by 10 percent.

Tech expects to save $350,000 by eliminating the football program.

Anderson said the plan to save football includes partially paying for the team through endowments and up-front contributions. He said a $10 million endowment won’t be needed to save the team. Yeo previously said such an endowment is necessary.

Yeo said he’s pleased the plan calls for making the football program self-sustaining.

“We never like to see a situation where a program has to get cut,” he said. “If there’s a way to avoid that, people in the athletic department are pleased.”

Anderson said there was an overwhelmingly negative response to the announcement that the program would be scrapped. He said he’s received more than 200 pages of e-mails objecting to the cut.

“I felt a deep responsibility to fight for this program,” Anderson said. “There was immediate support from our alumni and others that encouraged me to continue to work to keep it alive.”

According to Anderson, 1,737 people from 38 states and 15 countries signed an online petition calling for the program to be saved. After five days, the results were sent to Yeo and Tompkins.

The three-sentence petition reads, in part:

“This (cut) was done without consulting alumni, coaching staff, or current players. By signing this petition you acknowledge that this decision was wrong and you support allowing the pursuit of alternatives.”

Chuck Lucchesi, a 1966 Tech graduate and former football player, said he would be ecstatic if the program is saved. He said several alumni are meeting with university officials, including Tompkins, at a Michigan Tech Fund board meeting in San Diego.

“I would be thrilled if it came back, but I’m real skeptical,” said Lucchesi, a Hancock automobile dealer.

He said many alumni and football backers were blind-sided by the university’s decision.

Since the football advisory council was formed in 1999, supporters have donated a large amount of money that could be used to support the team, Lucchesi said.

“I guess the bottom line on this thing is that everyone would have felt a little better if there was more communication on this,” he said.

Yeo said the timing of Granholm’s announcement didn’t leave time for extensive consultations with football alumni.

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