Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
The Chicago State board of trustees on Monday voted to eliminate the university’s baseball program, bringing to an end a long, drawn-out process.
Chicago State initially moved to cut baseball at its May board of trustees meeting. But following a report by Baseball America, the team mobilized and made a strong show of support during the meeting. The board moved to table the decision for a month, casting uncertainty over the program.
On Monday, there were no further delays and the board voted, 5-2, to eliminate baseball and replace it with men’s soccer. In a presentation, athletic director Elliott Charles told the board replacing baseball with men’s soccer would help the department cut costs and improve its competitiveness.
Chicago State joins Furman in cutting baseball in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial crisis in college athletics that has followed. Bowling Green State was the first school to cut baseball during this time, but it reversed the decision two weeks later and reinstated the program after a private fundraising campaign.
Chicago State has long struggled on the diamond. In 55 years of the program’s existence, the Cougars had just three winning seasons—from 1969-71. This year, they went 2-16.
Further complicating the program’s struggles was its conference affiliation. Since the university withdrew from the Mid-Continent Conference in 2006 it has been a misfit, first competing for three years as an independent, then playing in the sprawling Great West Conference from 2009-2013 before finally joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2014. In the WAC, Chicago State was almost 1,000 miles away from its closest fellow-baseball playing member (Northern Colorado) and was required to make annual trips to the West Coast to play schools like Cal State Bakersfield, Sacramento State and Seattle.
Most of the Cougars entered the transfer portal following the May board of trustees meeting. A few have already announced their intention to transfer, with players landing at Liberty, Southern and UNC Wilmington.