Letter from A.D. John Currie and Dr. Kirk Schulz - October 13

In a letter to the equestrian community last month, the Committee on Women's Athletics detailed its decision regarding equestrian based on a lack of sponsorship in all three NCAA divisions, including a 10-year period in which the sport never came close to the 40-program target set by the NCAA, as well as the significant costs of maintaining such programs. K-State is just one of 19 Division I equestrian programs in the nation. According to a recent NCAA publication, only 719 student-athletes currently compete in Division I equestrian.The NCAA's recognition of equestrian may not end until August 1, 2017, allowing schools that sponsor the sport time to make adjustments, but we believe a more immediate transition is in the best interests of K-State. There is never a perfect time for a decision such as this, but to keep with our goal of operating in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner, we believe a transition beginning in 2015-16 creates the best opportunity to allocate limited resources in a manner that propels our program toward our goal of a World-Class Student-Athlete Experience.We will fully honor the athletic scholarships of our current equestrian student-athletes for the remainder of their eligibility so that they can complete their K-State degrees, as well as the contract of our head coach, Casie Maxwell, who is in the second year of a five-year contract. Our equestrian student-athletes and coaches are dedicated Wildcats and they will forever be part of the K-State Athletics family and recognized as key historical contributors to our vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program with the privileges and honors accorded all our former student-athletes.We have worked hard to support our team with a current annual operating budget of $1.2 million and facility expenditures and improvements of $700,000 over the last five years. But, the fact is that sponsorship of the sport simply hasn't grown as was hoped while nearly every one of our border state peer institutions, and every Big 12 institution, sponsors soccer. Reallocating those resources to soccer better serves the young people of our region and advances the institution toward the K-State 2025 vision of moving into the top 50 public research universities.Schools like Nebraska, Colorado, Colorado State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri and KU all play soccer, which is one of the most popular sports not only in the Midwest but across the world. Locally, Kansas City has become the epicenter of U.S. Soccer with the emergence and popularity of Sporting KC and FC Kansas City in addition to becoming the future home of the U.S. National Team.Soccer's importance in the Big 12 region was underscored in 2013 when the league announced a partnership with Sporting KC to upgrade the MLS club's practice facility in Kansas City's historic Swope Park to serve as an annual host for the Big 12 women's postseason tournament. This year's edition will be played November 5-9.  Currently our plan is to field a women's soccer team to begin exhibition competition in fall of 2016, and eventually we will become the final institution in the 10-school Big 12 Conference to compete in the sport. More than 320 Division I schools sponsor women's soccer, making it the fourth-most sponsored women's sport in Division I behind only basketball, volleyball and cross-country, while more than 26,000 student-athletes across the country are currently playing Division I women's soccer.A national search for the program's first head coach will begin in January 2015, with the 2015-16 academic year used to complete a staff and recruit a roster that will range between 25-30 student-athletes. The average national roster size in Division I is 27.2 participants. K-State's ongoing commitment to Title IX will also be reflected with the full funding of the 14 women's soccer scholarships permitted by the NCAA.Plans for soccer practice and competition facilities are being studied as the department is initiating discussions with the Student Governing Association about possible on-campus options including the potential of utilizing historic Memorial Stadium for home matches or constructing a facility in an existing location.We thank you for all that you continue to do in support of our vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program. Please continue to support our equestrian student-athletes in our last 18 months of varsity competition. While today's announcement about our equestrian program was a difficult one, we are also excited for our fans and the residents of Kansas to bring women's soccer to K-State and the Manhattan community.Stay tuned for more information and details in the coming months.Go Cats!John Currie and Dr. Kirk Schulz