by Tyler Roaix
In an open forum hosted by the CCSU Student Government Association, the Task Force for the Sustainability of the CCSU Athletics Program gave athletes, students and faculty another opportunity to voice their opinion regarding the future of CCSU Athletics.
Christopher Galligan, vice president for Institution Advancement, gave the presentation for the Task Force.
The Task Force has a variety of factors to consider in terms of athletics. On-the-field relevance is only a small portion of the puzzle, Galligan admitted. A large part is economic as well.
As it stands, the school is responsible for paying the $13,533,342 budget for athletics.
A variety of alternatives were put out there for consideration. But the Task Force made it clear that some changes have to be made.
Galligan described the choices as a a spectrum. “Sticking to the status quo” would mean everything basically staying as it is currently. On the other end, the school may consider cutting some or all athletic programs, and focus more on club and intramural sports.
Galligan admitted that he’d like to end up “somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.”
One option being considered is to switch conferences. Currently, Central is in the Northeastern Conference. The school has looked into moving to the America East Conference, but this would pose geographical challenges, according to Galligan. Moving conferences also requires a formal invitation from the America East.
One other option on the table is dropping down from Division-I.
NCAA requirements state that a school must have at least 14 Division-I sports teams in order to stay at the D-I level. Central currently has 18, leaving the door open for four programs to be cut if the Task Force decides that is necessary. But Galligan described cutting athletics as “a very, very extreme measure.”
Many student-athletes were concerned about the ramifications if CCSU drops down from Division-I to a Division-II athletic program. If CCSU drops to D-II, it will affect the school’s ability to give scholarship awards, leaving student-athletes in limbo over their athletic future. It may also dissuade perspective student-athletes from committing to CCSU.
Melissa Wolliston, a junior on the track and field team, was very outspoken against making any drastic changes to Central athletics.
“Believe it or not, a lot of students came here because it is a D-I school,” Wolliston said. “I feel that we are being targeted… being on a sports team is more than just about playing sports. You have a lot of friendships created. Families, a sense of well-being, belonging… but when you take those things away, you’re taking away everything that we have.”
Central is currently the only CSU school to compete at the Division-I level. Southern Connecticut competes at the Division-II level, while Western and Eastern are both Division-III schools. If Central ultimately decides to drop down to Division-II, it could open the floodgates for current athletes to transfer out of Central.
Overall, there was a sense of uneasiness among the room as students left with no real answers.
“Well my general sense was that this was mostly student-athletes,” Galligan said after the meeting. “Very few non-student-athletes showed up, which is telling. Maybe this is just a student-athlete issue.”
“These are obviously very difficult decisions. We have a lot of things to look at but we want to involve the students in this discussion.”
While no official decision has been made yet, the Task Force plans to make a formal recommendation to CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro by Oct. 31 at the latest.