Several Factors in Spelman Athletics Cuts
With changes in its NCAA conference and student-health issues, the reasons to ditch sports were clear.
In addition to basketball, Spelman currently offers six other intercollegiate sports -- cross-country, tennis, soccer, softball, volleyball and golf -- that make up its NCAA Division III athletics program. New York City College of Technology, which withdrew from NCAA membership in 2011, is the only other institution of which the NCAA is aware to drop intercollegiate athletics in the past decade, according to the college sports organization's spokesman, Cameron Schuh.
"It is important to note that schools add or drop sports every year, and these decisions are made for a variety of reasons," Schuh said. "Each institution must continue to make the fiscal decisions that it believes best equips it to support the student-athletes and core mission."
Morehouse President Robert M. Franklin applauds the new direction and hopes the "wellness theme becomes contagious" but doesn't envision many HBCUs removing themselves from intercollegiate athletics.
"That's been an important part of the college culture for many of our coed institutions, and certainly for an all-male college, that's essential to our campus culture and our brand identity. But the wellness theme is certainly transferable, and I hope it catches on everywhere," Franklin said.
Morehouse's wellness initiative has been in place for the past 15 years and emphasizes nutrition and preventative health. Of its 2,300 students, Morehouse, a Division ll school with seven varsity sports, has 212 varsity and 377 intramural athletes. One of its well-known sports alums is Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses, who shares fitness and wellness tips during his campus visits.
As for Spelman's remaining student athletes, things may look bleak now, but all isn't lost, said Tatum. There will still be an opportunity for competitive sports, but on an intramural basis -- something that hasn't been an option because of lack of space.
Still unconvinced, Banks questions whether the intramural offering will be as competitive as the NCAA.
"I'm happy they're providing this opportunity for more girls to become more active," Banks said, "but I'd still like to see an athletics program. It's sad."