Obviously a bigger story is needed later this week at BaseballAmerica.com, because Monday has brought word of the second college in four days to drop its baseball program. Friday, it was Vermont. Monday, it’s Northern Iowa.
The FAQ sheet accompanying Northern Iowa’s press release announcing the decision cuts to the quick: "The significant downturn in the nation’s economy impacts our department. Consequently, our projected gap between revenues and expenses for the upcoming fiscal year is $500,000 to $600,000. This is a result of a cut in the general fund allocation from the University.
"This year, the athletic department receives approximately $5.3 million from the general fund. Budget proposals currently show the University will see a nine percent reduction in state funding. That reduction in state funding ultimately impacts Panther athletics."
Northern Iowa drops to 17 sports, keeping wrestling and golf, among others, over baseball. Wrestling of course makes sense—it’s Iowa. Golf? Well, we’re a baseball magazine and website.
The Panthers’ baseball program has been solid under coach Rick Heller, who is in his ninth season and is 247-252 in that span. The Panthers won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and an NCAA tournament bid in 2001, and just had an 11th-round pick in Brandon Douglas—the Tigers’ No. 23 prospect in BA’s Prospect Handbook—last year. UNI went 1-2 in this weekend’s action, losing two of three at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Look for other schools to start recruiting players from Northern Iowa and Vermont. The only good reason to announce the dissolution of a program so soon is to give the student-athletes time to be seen by other schools so they can transfer for next season, and because their schools will no longer field baseball teams, they can transfer and be immediately eligible for the 2010 season.
Northern Iowa’s dissolution also leaves Iowa as the only D-I school left in the state, as Iowa State lost its program back in 2001.
The other story we’ll be reporting on the rest of this week is whether or not other schools figure to follow suit. Northern Iowa and Vermont could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
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