Navy cuts four varsity sports Volleyball, fencing, gymnastics hit

May 19, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Citing factors that include the interests of the Brigade, th mandated reduction of the academy's Brigade and budget reductions, the U.S. Naval Academy announced yesterday the elimination of four varsity sports.

Gone are men's volleyball, men's and women's fencing and women's gymnastics. In other moves, women's soccer was elevated to varsity status, and pistol was shifted from a varsity sport to club status.

Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel spent much of yesterday talking to members of teams that are affected by the announcement.

"The teams all, obviously, share concerns," Lengyel said. "The reality of downsizing is such that when you're affected, it's tough to accept. There's a lot of frustration, and I share in their feelings."

The announcement comes after an 18-month study of Navy's athletic program. The academy studied areas that included availability of competition, revenue potential and media and fan interest in making the final decision, Lengyel said.

Fifteen percent of the Brigade was surveyed for input. "We just didn't cut programs, we reviewed all the programs," Lengyel said. "We've trimmed costs off of all of our sports."

The trimming comes at a time when the academy is faced with a congressionally mandated reduction of the Brigade from 4,500 in 1990 to 4,000 in 1995, as well as being faced with a budget reduction.

The elevation of women's soccer to varsity status helps Navy maintain the nine women's sports necessary to maintain Division I status.

"Plus, women's soccer is one of the fastest growing sports with 80 percent of our [female] applicants having played it," Lengyel said. "Women are 11 percent of our enrollment, yet represent 18 percent of our athletic participation. Gender equity is one of our major concerns, and we certainly more than fulfill our mandate."

Navy's elimination of two fencing teams and men's volleyball affects sports that are not widely popular among National Collegiate Athletic Association schools.

There are 26 men's fencing teams among Division I schools and 46 NCAA schools overall; women's fencing is a sport at 25 Division I schools and 44 overall; and men's volleyball is played at 24 Division I schools and 59 altogether.

None of the four sports cut was a member of the Patriot League, in which most of Navy's teams participate. Pistol is not an NCAA sport.

Despite the moves, Navy still has 29 intercollegiate sports. According to the 1991-92 NCAA annual report, the average number of sports for NCAA Division I programs was 18.

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