Macro-scale college football programs like the two in that one game from last night — I don’t remember the teams, but I’m pretty sure one of them was quarterbacked by Eric Crouch — are as insulated from the ups and downs of the economy as major corporations. Their (misplaced) place in citizens’ list of priorities is too lofty for them ever to have to worry about anything as piddling as budget cuts; Oklahoma, as a state, would almost certainly agree to cutting Medicaid payments if it meant both their major state schools winning bowl games. Anyway, OU and Florida and schools like them make too much money through TV and bowl appearances — and have too many generous boosters looking to step up and help out should things get really bad — to have to worry about money.
Western Washington, though, is not in that class of schools. For the DII Vikings, as it might for other public school teams that don’t fall under the Too
Big Much Team Speed To Fail heading, the current economic suckfest led to administrators pulling the plug on the school’s 106-year old football program. The Seattle Times‘ Steve Kelley contextualizes:
Something had to give at Western. The crashing economy and statewide budget cuts are forcing college presidents and athletic directors to make difficult decisions. Programs are getting re-evaluated. Sports are getting cut. Administrators are being forced into making calls they never thought they’d have to make.
[WWU President Lynne] Goodrich called the confluence of economic disasters that forced the university to make this decision “the perfect storm.” She said endowment cuts were so severe they were “underwater.” Some sport, or sports, had to go. By eliminating football she could save all the other sports. By dropping football, she could keep Western’s athletic programs afloat in Division II.
“This was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my 22 years here,” Goodrich said. “It’s absolutely the toughest day I’ve had to go through, and I’ve been around a long time.” The hurt in Goodrich’s voice was obvious. She understood the domino effect this would have on the coaches, the players and recruits. She was braced for the anger from alumni and people in the community.
Western’s football history is rich. The school played 797 games. It made five national playoff appearances in the 1990s and made it to the NAIA Division II championship game in 1996. Former Viking Michael Koenen is the punter in Atlanta. Dane Looker, who later transferred to Washington, is a receiver in St. Louis. And linebacker Shane Simmons was an undrafted free agent with Oakland.
…As costs escalate and revenue drops, other schools are making similar difficult decisions. In Western’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Humboldt State and Western Oregon are facing financial problems. There only are four football-playing schools left in the league.