The SCAD baseball team assumed they were warming up for a regular practice on Jan. 23, until they were called to the bleachers, where SCAD Athletic Director Steve Larson broke the news that their sport was among three the college was cutting.
“We started practice right on time at 2 o’ clock, and then they came in at 2:05 and sat us down on the bleachers there and said, ‘guys we have some bad news, this is gonna be a shock,’ and they just told us,” said senior captain and first baseman Matthew Zajac, a fourth-year film and television major from Pine Brook, N.J.
“At first we all thought it was kind of a joke, just because the way [Larson’s] personality is, but then they basically started explaining it, and it all kind of hit us really hard,” said starting pitcher Zakk White, a second-year sound design major from Sharpsburg, Ga.
On Jan. 23, SCAD announced it would be discontinuing men’s baseball, women’s softball and women’s volleyball after the 2011-2012 academic year.
Volleyball’s season is already over, so there was no practice held to inform players. The team was sent text messages telling them to meet at a conference room in Bradley Hall, where they heard the news.
“We didn’t have a clue we were gonna get cut, so we just kind of walked in, and got surprised,” said middle hitter Lauran Eschenroeder, a first-year fashion marketing major from Tarpon Springs, Fla. Eschenroeder finished a promising rookie season for SCAD’s volleyball team that garnered recognitions including AVCA NAIA All-Southeast Region honors.
“The college has made a real commitment to increasing the general scholarship budget for students throughout SCAD,” said Vice President for Student Success Phil Alletto.
“And as part of that, we’ve reallocated money from a number of different sources, again, across the campus, many different offices and such, and as part of that reallocation, the decision was made that there should be some funds reallocated from the athletic department. And so we investigated the different ways in which we might do that, and decided that the best option for us was to, rather than spread those reallocations over all teams, that we would eliminate three sports.”
After the decision was made, the college looked at different aspects of SCAD’s sports to decide what would be cut.
“First, it took the total number of athletes that might be affected would be the same … for example we chose to eliminate baseball, which is 30 plus players. Well, in order to get that in other teams, you’d have to eliminate, you know, all of men’s golf, all of women’s golf, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, and then part of the tennis team as well, because baseball was such a larger sport,” said Alletto.
Alletto said that operational costs such as whether SCAD owns the facilities for a sport, total number of students affected by a possible cut and the impact that the length of a sport’s season has on academics were taken into account.
“We looked at the costs of those sports as well, both total cost and a per-student basis,” said Alletto. “It’s a combination of all these different factors, and very difficult to make those decisions, but believe that we made the right decisions in order to bolster the general scholarship budget.”
“SCAD will continue, as any good organization should, to examine its programs,” he said. “But there are absolutely no plans, at this point, to make any more changes in the athletic offerings.”
At the time of announcement, the baseball players were unable to ask questions, but details were released to them in the following days in an email. Zajac spoke to his team at practice once they were left alone.
“After all the floods of initial emotions, I told the guys, ‘look, we still got a season left,’ and we have a great ball club this year, we can really do something special, and I just told them, ‘we can’t lose sight of that.’ And I know we’re all excited to play the best year we can,” said Zajac. The team is now 4-0, confident and in a position to be the first SCAD baseball team to win the Sun Conference.
“Call it ironic, call it whatever you want, but we’re gonna go out guns blazing and ready to have a hell of a last year,” said Zajac. He said he regretted that his teammates who aren’t seniors won’t be able to finish their careers.
Alletto said while he knows the decision will decrease student-athlete enrollment, he believes the increase in scholarship funds will increase overall enrollment.
“I could talk in general terms that millions of dollars have been added to the general scholarship budget. I wouldn’t want to talk specifically about individual sports,” said Alletto of the campus-wide reallocations. He declined to give figures or comment on how much money was reallocated from the athletic department, or specifically how much was added to scholarships.
“I was kind of shocked about it, then right after that I kind of started … trying to figure out what I was going to do for next year, going into my junior year, if I wanted to keep playing or if I want to finish school, what schools I should transfer to, stuff like that,” said White. “As of right now, I’m kind of like 70 percent/30 percent on transferring out and playing at another school.”
“I’ll probably stay, as of now,” said Eschenroeder, although she said she still has doubts.
Alletto said he understands and regrets the hardship of those affected by the decision.
“I feel for them, and I know there’s heartache. At the same time, I believe that it’s the right decision for the college in general as we move forward and focus on our mission.”Contact Allen Duncan.