MOREHEAD, Ky. - In response to the current economic environment, and more specifically the higher education budget cuts in the state of Kentucky, the Morehead State Office of Intercollegiate Athletics announced today that it would restructure its 16 intercollegiate athletic programs.
Effective immediately, the athletic department will suspend the men's and women's tennis programs from operation. The total number of Morehead State intercollegiate athletic programs will remain at 16, as the university plans to introduce women's beach volleyball and women's indoor track and field, effective in the 2016-17 academic year.
"Morehead State University has endured nearly a decade of cuts to our state appropriation. Our administrative team has worked diligently to consider alternatives as we work with a very challenging budget situation this current year and the next fiscal year," said President Wayne Andrews. "The most recent cuts, coupled with a revenue shortfall and rising fixed cost increases, puts us in a situation where we must make very difficult decisions that involve the elimination of positions, programs and services in order to present a balanced budget by July 1, 2016. This decision was not made lightly, and we are committed to taking care of the students and assisting with the transition of staff impacted."
The move will eventually reduce the athletic department's budget by approximately $400,000 annually. All current scholarships will be honored for affected student-athletes until their separation from MSU, whether immediate or upon graduation.
The decision impacts ten men's and women's tennis student-athletes currently on the rosters, along with head coach Kevin Fulton, who just finished his 11th season as head coach.
"I regret that we came to this conclusion," said Director of Athletics Brian Hutchinson. "There is tremendous disappointment in the result of this process, but ultimately we decided to move in this direction with regard to our budget reduction strategies. This is more than an unfortunate situation for those affected, and I am very sensitive to that. However, given the financial climate, this is the decision that we made."
"Our coaches and student-athletes that competed at Morehead State in men's and women's tennis deserve our gratitude and will forever remain a treasured part of our history and tradition," added Hutchinson. "We will do whatever we can to ease the transition of those affected. Whether they choose to remain at Morehead State or transfer to another school that offers their sport, we will do everything we can to ensure that these student-athletes graduate and have the ability to compete elsewhere, if that is their desire."
The Morehead State men's tennis program began play in the Ohio Valley Conference in 1958 and have had 39 All-OVC members during that time frame. Women's tennis began competing in the OVC in 1977, compiling OVC regular season championships in 1981, 1983, and 1985. In 40 seasons, women's tennis had 40 All-OVC members and in 2014, Briar Preston was named OVC Player of the Year.
Fulton guided the women's team to a third-place showing in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2014, after winning just three total matches in 2013, and was named OVC Women's Co-Coach of the Year. The women placed third again in 2015. He led the men's team to seven straight Ohio Valley Conference Tournament berths.
Beach volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport with 60 sponsoring schools. The inaugural beach volleyball championship event will take place May 6-8, 2016 from Gulf Shores, Ala. The addition of the beach volleyball championship becomes the 45th NCAA championship administered for women.
Morehead State is reinstituting women's indoor track and field following an eight-year hiatus. Prior to the 2008-09 academic year, men's and women's indoor track and field were suspended, while women's golf was added and the men's and women's rifle programs were consolidated into a mixed team.
"The addition of these two sports for women positions our department and our program to continue to offer year-round competition opportunities for members of our current rosters, as well as new opportunities as these programs develop over time," said Hutchinson. "These sports will help write the next chapter for MSU Athletics."