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EMU cuts four sports, leaves football intact

Eastern Michigan University, which faces an abrupt budget deficit, will drop four of its sports programs at the end of this school year, the Ypsilan School announced on Tuesday.

The cut is softball, swimming and diving for men, wrestling and women's tennis. With the change, EMU, which previously led the Central American Conference with 21 sports, will now have 17 – seven men's sports and 10 women's sports. The school will remain at the MAC.

Movements occur when EMU eliminates other positions to offset a projected budget deficit of $ 4.5 million to $ 5.5 million for fiscal year 2018. Forty-two more posts are being eliminated and 17 layoffs are being made.

The movements made on Tuesday affected 58 male athletes and 25 female athletes and finally saved approximately $ 2.4 million.

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The coaches of the four programs that were being cut were informed about the move in individual meetings on Monday night with the EMU athletic director, Scott Wetherbee. Assistant coaches were informed during a meeting of 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. The athletes were informed during a meeting at 7:30 a.m. with Wetherbee and Eastern Michigan President James Smith.

Athletes have the option of staying at EMU. If they do, the school will honor their scholarships, partial or full, until they graduate. If they choose to transfer, the NCAA rules allow them to transfer and play immediately and not have to miss a year.

Many teachers and students were upset because the cuts did not include football.

"Here's my problem with not cutting back on football, or having them give up a coach's salary: they've had a good year," said Tina Ellington, 21, of Ypsilanti. "The programs they cut are really good."

Eight full-time coaches, a graduate assistant and a part-time assistant coach will see their posts removed.

Those meetings were difficult, Wetherbee said, stifling tears during a press conference.

"Standing in front of them was not easy, it's very raw right now," Wetherbee said.

Olivia Logan was stunned, and so was her mother, Jan.

The first junior baseman on the softball team at Eastern Michigan University discovered on Tuesday that his program was being eliminated.

"We were a bit shocked," Jan Logan said. "We still do not have a plan, we're still finding out things, but we have good people on our side, she's surrounded by good people, she'll land exactly where God wants her to be, she'll be good."

Faisal Munassar trained his son, Ameer, during his wrestling career at Melvindale High School, and his son heard rumors on Monday night about the possibility of the program being cut.

"He called me last night and I told him 'there is no way', 'said Faisal Munassar. "It's not possible, they met on Tuesday morning, I told him we'll have to sit down and find out what we're going to do."

The athletes and their parents were not the only ones surprised. It exploded throughout the campus on Tuesday.

"I can not believe they cut some sports," said Michelle Lake, 20, of Detroit, a junior. "I thought there was no way they could do that, but, of course, they did not cut the football. "

Throughout the campus, many felt that the wrong sports were cut, which included the union of the faculty, which has long been critical of how the funds Orientals have fun.

"It's time for the administrators of Eastern Michigan University to take a look at the money we spend on athletics," Judith Kullberg, the union's president faculty, said in a statement . "But today's announcement to eliminate tro sports is a wrong decision. This decision needs a more detailed review, not by disconnected administrators, but through consultations with students, faculty and staff.

"Faculty of EMU are pro-athletics, we support our school, our teams and our student athletes, we want to see a successful athletic program, but it has to be sustainable. "

The statement added:" EMU administrators have reduced course offerings, dismiss staff, vacant vacancies, and externalize Essential services for students In this environment, it is not sustainable for EMU to spend more than $ 20 million annually from its own funds to subsidize football and other NCAA Division I sports.

"We need a solution that allows more participation, not less, for our student athletes. EMU teams should play at a conference where we can compete successfully against other schools of similar size and scale. College is possible, if we can make it happen. "

Calls to cuts in football have lasted for years, but there was also a renewed debate about athletics in eastern Michigan in recent years, including an HBO. Real Sports spending segment in the athletic department that was critical of Eastern Michigan.

Several professors and students have asked the university to abandon Division I football, either by abandoning the program altogether or by going down division, which decrease the cost In recent years, Eastern Michigan, with approximately 21,000 students, has spent more than $ 27 million a year from the university's general sports fund.

Many of the problems with the Eastern Michigan spending has focused on football, which has had poor performance and low attendance for years.

It's not that simple, said Wetherbee, noting that he knows when goes to meetings about the budget, he's the elephant in the room, everyone wonders why football is not getting cut.

"They are not a black hole" for finances, he told the media in the press conference. He said the soccer team has expenses of about $ 4.1 million in salaries and $ 2.8 million in scholarships.

"If we eliminate football, we will have to eliminate other sports," he said.

Wetherbee said he went to the Senate of the faculty and explained the finances and offered to meet with anyone interested in learning more, but has not heard from anyone.

That did not appease Mike Coleman, 49, of Ypsilanti, who has a daughter in Eastern.

"I think he'll want to reward and protect the programs that are doing well," he said while on campus to meet his daughter for lunch. "I do not understand why they do not go down a level or two and they play in the same division as Grand Valley (State University) They do well, they win championships Eastern never wins a national football championship." T makes sense. "

Wetherbee said the measures were now announced to give students time to find new schools. He said the school would continue to honor scholarships for those students who remain in the EMU until they graduate.

It is a situation that Wetherbee understands well. He went to Ferris State University with a partial baseball scholarship. In October of his first year, Ferris cut the baseball program. As the cut was announced so soon, Wetherbee was able to transfer quickly to Ball State University, an experience that played out a lot with his decision to announce the cuts now and not at the end of the school year.

The movement was dictated by the general finances of the university, which have collapsed.

"I feel handcuffed," said Wetherbee, who was hired eight months ago to replace Heather Lyke after Lyke left EMU to become the sporting director of the University of Pittsburgh. "I went into a terrible situation, I knew the budget was bad, I did not know how bad it was, I thought I could become a conquering hero and generate income, so we did not have to do this. but I'll have it now, have I come if I knew I'd be sitting here eight months later? I really do not know. "

School officials said the move had to be made.

"We are very sad to have to make this change, which is necessary as we continue to align the university's budget with enrollment trends and state funding," Smith said in a press release. "This aligns us with our Central American Conference peers in the total number of sports, and is part of our ongoing effort to realign resources to ensure we continue to invest in high-quality, high-demand academic programs and world-class facilities."

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

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