Equestrian Program Transitions to Club Sport
April 29, 2008
NACOGDOCHES - The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack equestrian program will no longer be an intercollegiate sport Director of Athletics Robert Hill announced Tuesday morning. The program, which has been a varsity sport for the past three seasons, will return to club status under the direction of the SFA Department of Agriculture beginning Fall, 2008.
The decision was made in response to a campus-wide budget reduction plan. Hill attributed the high cost of operating the program and the lack of an NCAA championship as leading factors in the decision. Equestrian is considered an "emerging sport" by the NCAA due to a lack of institutions sponsoring the sport.
"The cost of operating the program was more than we could handle under the current economic times," said Hill. "We were also under the impression that there would be an NCAA championship for the sport because other schools were going to add it, including some Southland Conference members, but that has not happened. We are not eliminating the program. The sport will remain at SFA, but it will be a club sport."
All current equestrian student-athletes who are receiving scholarship aid will continue to receive aid through the coming academic year. Head coach Leigh Rush will also remain on staff to help ease the transition back to club status.
SFA announced that it was adding equestrian as a varsity sport in July, 2004. The Ladyjacks began a competition schedule the following season. During its three seasons, the program utilized the Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research and Equine Center as its home facility.
Plans are underway to add two women's sports to make up for the lost participation opportunities. Women's golf, along with a sport to be determined later, will be added in time for the 2009-10 academic year.