By Tod Bassham
Recent reports that plans were being considered to revitalize the University of Tulsa baseball program and that subsequently those plans had been shelved are “just speculation”, Athletic Director Emery Turner said.
A local newspaper recently reported that Turner had discussed with interested parties proposals to raise the baseball program to collegiate level status.
But Turner said, “No one’s come forward to me and asked about a new baseball program.”
Moreover, Turner said there weren’t any plans to revive baseball at TU. The cause of the speculation, according to Turner, was that the apparent financial success of the TU basketball team raised hopes of using the extra money for rebuilding the baseball program.
In reality,Turner said, TU’s winnings from the NIT championship will amount to “only about $20,000.”
The cost of a baseball program at TU has been estimated to be over $110,000 a year.
Baseball, a low revenue sport, was reduced to an inexpensive club status last year in a budget tightening move, and to help TU conform with the NCAA title IX ruling.
The new ruling requires Division I schools to have an equal number of men and women’s sports.
The last few years of TU’s baseball program had been years of dwindling support. As a private school, TU’s scholarship costs had been increasing tremendously in relation to other schools, taking talent out of TUand into competing schools.
“Baseball scholarships costs can run up to $65,000 a year” Turner said. “It was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our level of competition with the area schools.”
“Baseball is a sport natural to the area,” Turner said in a recent interview, “but the costs of the sport and the little revenue derived made it very hard to justify.”
The revenue from the basketball championship will be sports that replaced baseball: soccer, track and cross country; and will also be used to refurbish the basketball program, he said.
Other sports, such as volleyball and golf, will be given additional funds as well.
“The main thing that the basketball championship did was to generate enthusiasm for TUsports,” Turner said. “Greater enthusiasm will increase football and basketball ticket sales for next year.”
If such enthusiasm is kept at a peak for a few years, the funds resulting might be enough to justify a baseball program, Turner said.
“I don’t want to dash anyone’s hopes,” he said, “but unless someone comes along and endows TU with a $500,000 grant, there can’t be a baseball program here anytime soon.”
“It is purely a financial matter right now and I can’t see a solution to the problem in the immediate future,” he said.