The University of Tulsa announced on Thursday that as of July 1, 2016, there would no longer be a men’s golf program. The school is still honoring scholarships to the six student athletes affected for the remainder of their years of study should they choose to remain at TU. Those athletes affected include: Preston Crawford, Sam Humphreys, Marc Kepka, Jack Knoesel, Matthew Marquez and Francisco Yanez.
“During budget reduction times, obviously, the athletic department is not held harmless. It must reduce its budget, along with the other units on campus, so that’s what we were asked to do.”
University Athletic Director Derrick Gragg said along with the quote above that his department, like every other department at the school, has to evaluate all aspects of the program. It was clearly a monetary issue and nothing personal, but has still left current and former TU golfers upset. Only six current students are affected, but generations of golf alumni will miss the opportunity to support their program in the future.
Tour Pro and TU golf alum Michael Boyd said, “It’s sad for Coach Brogden and for the current players. It’s a disrespect to his legacy and to the former players. I feel disrespected. They just opened a new lettermen’s lounge with my picture on the wall in a TU uniform. That would need to come down. We don’t have a program.”
Golf Oklahoma’s Ken MacLeod reports that Gragg had to cut around $500,000 yearly and eventually decided on the men’s golf program. The funding for this program annually is split between operating costs ($280,000) and scholarships ($230,000). The team is allotted 4.5 scholarships per year, which are split amongst the six golfers on the team. This means that all of the team members still contribute to the university on some level. Could this budget cut have been distributed among all the different athletic programs? The answer seems to be yes, especially after multimillion-dollar renovations to both the football and basketball facilities in recent years.
There appear to be other reasons for this move as well, a main one being the retirement of head coach Bill Brogden after 30 years with the program. Brogden had already announced his intention to retire before this decision was made.
The move is surprising in many ways, largely because Tulsa (and Oklahoma in general) is a hot bed for golfing. Both OSU and OU have top tier golf programs with elite facilities, Oklahoma State is one of the founding promoters for Ping Golf Clubs, and Tulsa is the home to at least one professional golf course in Southern Hills and even two if you count the Patriot, which hosts professionals every year for a charity event.
It’s true that basketball and football are king at every university, as they bring in the most revenue. Where the program misses a profitable opportunity is with their inability to host their own events. With some of the best courses in the country already mentioned, and OU and OSU hosting almost yearly events of their own, you would think that the program’s fairly new facilities at the Patriot in Owasso could contribute to some revenue for the program with a tournament of their own.
Perhaps the most verbally upset person was one of the six TU golfers affected, Francisco Yanez, a sophomore from Chile. Yanez submitted a letter to multiple media outlets, including the Collegian, that criticized the decision making process by the athletic department.
“This administration loses credibility by taking the easiest way out of the problem without looking for alternatives. Great institutions defend their values, fight for their students’ dreams, and fulfill their commitments to become even greater in the future.”
Yanez goes on to explain the suddenness of the decision. He said Coach Brogden was only informed shortly before the announcement was made and no one else throughout the program was given an opportunity to find a solution before the decision was made.
Gragg was hopeful that the program could be revived in the future, but based on the current status of the TU baseball team, that promise could be hard to believe.