Western axes men’s tennis

Nick Ebelhack, Assistant news editor

The Western Illinois athletic department announced Wednesday the Western men’s tennis program will close at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season.

The program, which over the last four years has a cumulative record of 14-58, is being eliminated in anticipation of budget issues to come in FY17. Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications Patrick Osterman said that without a budget for higher education in the state of Illinois, all departments are facing tough decisions.

“The funds that would be saved, and I am not really going to comment on the amount, are budget saving issues,” Osterman said. “Again, we are still waiting for the state of Illinois to pass a budget, and this is a proactive response looking to fiscal year 17.”

Osterman said that the men’s tennis program is not being cut for its performance. He also said that he doesn’t anticipate any further eliminations in regards to athletic programs.

For the 2016-17 school year, Western will offer 10 women’s and nine men’s athletic programs. According to Title IX law, schools must provide equal opportunity, regardless of sex, for students to participate in a federally funded program or activity, such as athletics.

Osterman assured that Western continues to maintain Title IX compliance with the elimination of the men’s tennis program.

“Well there is actually different prongs of Title IX, and I would let the office of Equal Opportunity answer that,” Osterman said. “But Western Illinois is Title IX compliant, and we will continue to strive to be Title IX compliant.”

The Western Courier attempted to reach out to the Western Office of Equal Opportunity & Access, however repeated calls went unanswered.

According to Osterman, the students on the men’s tennis team will continue to receive scholarship funds throughout their academic career at Western if they choose to stay. He said that per NCAA rules, Western offers 3 full-ride scholarships divided amongst eight players for men’s tennis.

If the athletes choose to look for other opportunities to play however, the athletics department said that they will assist in their transition to a different school. Interim director Matt Tanney said in a press release from Western Athletic Communications that the athletics department is going to make sure those athletes will continue to succeed outside of Western.

“We will focus our efforts on assisting the student-athletes during this transitional period. We remain committed to their success in the classroom and on the court,” Tanney said. “If they elect to transfer and further their tennis careers at another institution, we will assist in that process too.”

This announcement comes shortly after the procurement of St. Catherine’s High School senior tennis player Patrick Anderson, who was expected to join the team for the 2016-17 season, which was announced by Western Athletic Communications on Nov. 18.

Osterman said that every aspect of the university is going to be forced to make cuts while the state of Illinois has still not allocated funds for higher education for FY16, which began on July 1 of this year.

“Again, this effects everybody across campus, this is not going to just affect one faculty area or program,” Osterman said. “It’s everybody, everybody is affected by this.”