CHENEY, Wash — Eastern Washington University's Board of Trustees voted on Friday to keep their athletics programs at the DI level. Tap or click here for the latest updates.
Eastern Washington University's athletic program rests in the hands of the school's board of trustees. Tomorrow -- the board will decide if the football program is worth the millions of dollars of debt it costs them.
For years, the school has been struggling with declining enrollment - leading to declining revenue. According to a report from the PICTOR Group, EWU must choose between four options.
They could keep their D-I status. If EWU remains in their current conference, they would have to cut athletic funding elsewhere. According to the report, they would need to invest more money into the department and find more aggressive ways to generate revenue. OR they could select which sports to allocate the majority of their funding to, then fund other teams as if they were Division III.
Another option would be moving to a sub division of D-1, but losing football. If EWU reclassified to a Division I subdivision, they would be forced to drop football, add a different sport and move to the Western Athletic Conference. If the WAC subdivision agrees to take on EWU, there would be a possibility they could continue to sponsor football.
EWU could reclassify as D-II. This would require membership acceptance into a Division II conference and a transition period of several years. The transition could allow Eastern to keep the football program.
The final choice is reclassifying as D-III. This transfer would be highly unusual. The report says the acceptance of a successful Division I institution into Division III membership could be very challenging and would involve a process of at least three years.
Three weeks ago, Interim President David May pushed to remain D-I. He says moving down in athletics would negatively impact recruiting and cause the ending of athletic sponsorships. He also says athletics helps make the student body diverse.
May said moving down in athletics would negatively impact recruiting local students to enroll at Eastern and would cause the ending of athletic sponsorships that would damage the university's fundraising opportunities. He also said athletics helps make the student body diverse.
“Moving to a lower divisions or association or eliminated some sports does not align with the vision that EWU has created. That vision reads in part, ‘Eastern Washington university is a driving force for the culture, economy, workforce, and vitality of Washington state,'" May said in his presentation.
However, a physics professor and an author of the report, says the university's focus should be academics, not failing athletics. He says transitioning to D-II would be more efficient.
David Syphers will take over as president of the Faculty Organization on July 1, but he is not speaking on behalf of its members.
"When I looked at us making it to the championships a few years ago, no effect on enrollment," he said.
The fate will be decided tomorrow afternoon at noon over Zoom. The vote will take place after May gives his recommendation to the board and the public gives comment.