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Chicago State Votes To Cancel Baseball Program

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Chicago State on Monday became the second Division I athletic department to cut baseball. CSU athletic director Elliott Charles proposed cutting baseball and adding men’s soccer, and the university’s Board of Trustees approved the measure, 5-2. Charles estimated that the institution will save $500K annually from cutting baseball but didn’t say the cost of adding soccer.

While the overwhelming thought coming into the summer was that mass cancellations would be seen for many college baseball programs, that hasn’t been the case. Bowling Green was the first institution to drop its program, but the Falcons have since reinstated it after raising $1.5 million to cover costs for three seasons. The school will then need to devise a plan for the sport moving forward. Furman also dropped baseball, and a group called Save Furman Baseball continues to meet with university officials to come up with a plan for reinstatement. The organization hopes to raise $5 million as a starting point, with the ultimate goal being to endow the Paladins program for the foreseeable future.

As for Chicago State, many around the program knew this day was coming after the Board of Trustees met over a month ago to determine the program’s fate. Rumors were swirling then that the program would be dropped in lieu of men’s soccer. However, the CSU Board refused to vote on the matter at the time after some callers derailed the deliberations. It wasn’t until today that the Board met again on the matter, this time agreeing to cut baseball.

The handling of this situation is the most troubling aspect of this entire ordeal. CSU players and coaches were not alerted to anything regarding the program’s status even a month ago, causing a whopping 25 players to enter the D1 Transfer Tracker in the time since. To make matters worse, athletic department officials emailed student athletes before today’s Board meeting to tell them their scholarships were not being renewed. That decision caused confusion and clearly irked at least some CSU board members.

“We could’ve done and should’ve done a much better job of communicating with the families that are going to be affected by this decision,” CSU trustee Andrea Zopp said. “We did not do that. There was certainly a lot happening, but that’s not an excuse.

“For those failures to communicate, I would apologize to those parents. We are sorry,” she continued. “I would hope the athletic department is doing a much better job now and moving forward in how they handle these things.

“I’m also distressed that an email was sent out terminating scholarships before we even voted on the matter,” she added. “It should not have been done that way. We’re terminating a sport and that affect’s people’s lives.”

Finally, coaches and players were kept completely in the dark on the thinking and decision-making of Charles and the CSU Board. Little information was known about anything regarding the program’s future until today. And even then, the Board had plenty of opportunities to resolve the matter before Monday, perhaps giving student athletes more, better options from a transfer standpoint. Only one of the 25 players in the transfer portal had picked a destination entering Monday’s meeting.

Chicago State’s news is disappointing but not surprising. The Cougars have struggled to make progress since the program was launched back in 1965. CSU has had just four winning seasons in 55 years and have not eclipsed the 20-win mark since 1991. They went 10-41 last season before beginning the 2020 campaign with a 2-16 record. In addition to not experiencing much success, the Cougars have a robust travel budget because they play in the Western Athletic Conference. The baseball program, and athletic department as a whole, would’ve benefited from playing in a much more regional-friendly conference.

As we’ve seen with Bowling Green and perhaps, now, even Furman, there is a pathway to keep your program. But you must find serious financial backing to make reinstatement a reality. For now, all looks lost for Chicago State’s baseball program. But perhaps someone steps up?

That’s the lifeline they’re now looking for. At least they got an answer.

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