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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  • Mademoiselle

    I’ve long thought that sports shouldn’t be tied to academics. I’ve even been of the mindset that I’d prefer my (future) kids to go to a school that doesn’t have an athletics department because I prefer sports to be a community program. I don’t like what happens when sports become a major source of income for a school: students become [unpaid] employees, athletes get [unwarranted] special treatment, and academics are “finessed” to prevent education from standing in the way of athleticism. I’d much rather enroll my kids in community athletics where they get to network with kids from different zip codes and schools aren’t forced to decide between paying teachers/professors more and building new stadiums. I’d also prefer to force the pro leagues to recruit off campus so students aren’t forced to take up seats in a classroom they couldn’t care less about if all they want to do is play ball. My philosophy on school athletics is outside of the box, but it boils down to wanting a separation of school & sport. Compensate athletes for the hazards they face and the revenue they generate; allow teachers to teach and grade students based on their understanding of coursework regardless of their prowess on a field/court; restrict federal funds to academia; allow kids to join community teams instead of restricting them to the team controlled by their school; get rid of the “celebrity” attached to a student-athlete so that no student is above reproach, etc.

    • “allow kids to join allow kids to join community teams instead of restricting them to the team controlled by their school”

      Those “community” are called AAU, and they are just as exploitive.

  • talaktochoba

    if they had a boys athletic programme to leech off under the umbrella of Title IX like the girls do at UM, it would be an entirely different story…

    and before the PC ninnies start whining, just what money does girls field hockey, soccer and synchonised swimming bring in to the athletic department at UM, with more officials on the field than fans in the stands?