Last year Spelman College announced its decision to abandon its 80-student, $900,000 athletics department (out of a $100 million total budget) in favor of using that money for health and fitness programs for the entire student population. Today, the Spelman teams are playing their last season.

The ladies-only HBCU is the second school to pull out of the NCAA in the past decade (the New York City College of Technology being the other according to the New York Times), but in today’s strained economy, other schools just might follow suit.

Spelman plans to replace NCAA sports with beefed up health and fitness programs for all students such as golf, yoga and swimming.  Beverly Tatum, Spelman’s president, says when other college presidents tell her it took guts to end the athletics program, her response is always “It would take more guts if it were the University of Michigan.”

Indeed. As a University of Michigan graduate, I can back up  Tatum’s statement there. At the same time, if the University of Michigan were spending a considerable portion of its budget on an expendable program for a limited number of students, there would likely be some changes made to reallocate that money for something more practical. Just so happens that the expendable program for Spelman is the athletics department.

The reaction from Tatum’s peers goes to show that, for a multitude of reasons, colleges and universities are often reluctant to axe an ailing athletics department even if it makes economic sense to do so.

What do you think about Spelman’s decision to get rid of its athletics department?

Demetria Irwin is a New York City-based freelance writer/editor. Follow her on Twitter, @Love_Is_Dope.


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