The Saint Paul's College board of trustees has voted to discontinue the school's entire athletics program, the college announced Monday. The decision, which takes effect July 1, is intended to help alleviate Saint Paul's ongoing financial struggles.
A member of the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Saint Paul's fields 14 teams — seven for men and seven for women. Once the 123-year-old Lawrenceville school becomes financially stable again, the release said, it will consider reinstating the program.
If boosters and alumni can raise enough money to sustain any of the teams, those teams conceivably could be revived, said Samuel Davis III, a member of the board of trustees.
The administration intends to implement a full-scale intramural program in place of varsity competition. School officials have not determined which coaches and other employees can be kept on staff. They hope to reach a decision sometime next week, director of public relations Germeka Akrie said.
"They're still trying to process the next step," Akrie said.
Also unknown is the fate of the student-athletes.
"The CIAA remains dedicated to the welfare of each affected student-athlete and will make every effort to protect their interests," the league said in a release.
Of the 517 students enrolled at the school, about 85 percent are involved in the athletic department.
"Anytime something like this happens, something of this magnitude, it's obviously very sad and very unfortunate — especially for the student-athletes," Virginia State men's basketball coach Darryl Jacobs said. "You worry about them. You wonder how many will be displaced."
For the past few years, the school has suffered from financial mismanagement, according to Davis. He said the school had not kept financial records and misspent funds, putting the college in debt. The administration responsible for these decisions is no longer in place, Davis said. In response, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional body for accreditation, put Saint Paul's on probation last summer.
"That has to be taken very, very seriously and there must be a pretty strong response," Davis said. "If you don't turn that around, it's essentially a death sentence."
If the college loses its accreditation, its students would no longer be eligible for federal financial assistance, depriving the school of a major revenue source.
The board of trustees worked for months on how to cut about $4 million from the school's $11 million budget. The athletics program costs more than $1.3 million a year and athletic scholarships add up to an additional million. Other programs will be cut, too, but the school has not identified them publicly.
Ultimately, the board determined the school could not stay accredited and keep the athletics program. Members of the board likened the decision to chemotherapy to stop the spread of cancer.
The CIAA has to approve Saint Paul's exit from the conference. The league could choose to charge the school an exit fee. If the fee is so high that the school will lose more money leaving, the Tigers will play through the season.
"This isn't anything anyone wanted to do. This is something we really see as the only way the school can stay accredited," Davis said. "It's a necessary evil."
Staff writer Vic Dorr Jr.
contributed to this report.