BOWLING GREEN —
Western Kentucky University will eliminate men's tennis as a varsity intercollegiate sport with the 2014-15 academic year, according to a press release from the university.
"This is certainly a disappointment," WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said. "Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of three consecutive years of cuts to the overall athletics budget forces us to make difficult decisions. We have actually increased both our ticket and sponsorship revenue in each of the last two years along with private donor support, but cuts to the athletics budget have lessened the impact of our growth. I would like to thank all of our current and former men’s tennis coaches, student-athletes and their families for their service to our program, and I share their disappointment with this course of action.
"The elimination of sport programs has become a nationwide trend in recent years, and many schools are facing similar challenges. Our decision to eliminate men’s tennis also enables us to avoid cuts to any other sport program. We will go into the 2014-15 year with 18 sponsored sports, which ties for the most in Conference USA," Stewart said. "WKU Athletics has an overall 70 percent graduation rate, and nine of our sport programs have won a conference championship over the last two years. We also have an excellent opportunity to win the 2013-14 Vic Bubas Cup, given annually to the Sun Belt Conference’s all-sports champion, for the first time since 2008. Our goals will not change, and we remain committed to making a national impact in the years ahead on the field of play and in the classroom."
Current WKU men's tennis student-athletes will be allowed to transfer to another institution to continue their playing careers without having to sit out of competition for a year, as is usual transfer protocol. Should they choose to remain a student at WKU they will have their scholarship honored at its current level through their senior year provided they remain in good academic standing.
WKU began playing tennis in 1936 and was coached by E.B. Stansbury in the late 1930s. Ted Hornback led the Hilltoppers to success in the Ohio Valley Conference in the 1950s and 1960s, but WKU has finished last or second-to-last in the Sun Belt Conference standings in 15-straight seasons. WKU has just one conference finish higher than fifth in 29 seasons since 1985, which was a fourth-place result in 1995.
In December 2013, Temple University announced it was cutting seven of its 24 varsity Division I sport programs, and Robert Morris University also eliminated seven of its 23 varsity Division I teams. Rutgers University cut six sports in 2007 and the University of Maryland eliminated seven in 2012.
WKU eliminated men's soccer in 2008.
Beginning in 2014-15, WKU will compete in Conference USA after 32 years as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.