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WV Tech drops football program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The football program at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology is being eliminated after state lawmakers declined to immediately fund improvements on the Montgomery campus.

West Virginia University senior associate provost Russ Dean released a letter to the WVU Tech community Monday evening. It came after the Legislative Oversight Commission on Higher Education Accountability endorsed a report for campus improvements but wouldn’t commit to paying for them.

Dean wrote that among the first steps will be eliminating Tech’s football program.

“The high cost of operating this program, coupled with low fan attendance and support, makes this decision necessary,” Dean said.

A report prepared by an audit team of academic experts for the Legislature had proposed the football team’s elimination to save money. The football program cost $700,000 a year to operate. Athletics consumes 11 percent of the school’s total operating budget.

Scott Tinsley, WVU Tech’s coach since 2008, said he was surprised by the decision to eliminate the program.

“I did not expect it,” Tinsley said. “I’m still amazed that they’re shutting down something that makes nearly a $1 million a year for the institution.”

Media outlets report student scholarships and employee contracts within the football program will be honored. Tinsley’s contract expires June 30.

WVU Tech, a member of the NAIA Mid-South Conference, went 1-9 this season. It joined the conference in 2006 after spending 80 years as a member of the Division II West Virginia Conference. The Golden Bears had considered dropping the program in 2004.

The report prepared for the Legislature had cited a 50 percent decline in enrollment over the past decade for leaving WVU Tech “continually starved for operating funds.”

The report had sought a short-term cash infusion of up to $35 million and a long-term investment of as much as $100 million to ensure the college’s survival.

“I’m quite uncomfortable committing that amount of funding,” said Senate Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne. “If I had that much money, I don’t know that I’d put it all into one project or one institution.”

The legislative commission said recommendations from the report that require no funding at WVU Tech will be implemented first. Funding for the remainder of the recommendations would now have to be requested after the Legislature convenes in January.

Dean’s letter recommended installing an interim leader at WVU Tech by Dec. 15 to replace campus provost Scott Hurst until long-term plans are made for the school. Hurst will remain at the school in an undetermined position.

The letter also recommends establishing a higher education committee to oversee revitalization efforts and razing one WVU Tech residence hall that is beyond repair.