Florida Institute of Technology on Monday announced it will eliminate its football program amid a series of steps taken in response to the “unprecedented economic uncertainty” created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida Tech’s football program was founded in 2011 and began play in 2013. The team competed at the Division II level as a member of the Gulf South Conference. Under the watch of head coach Steve Englehart, the Panthers amassed a 44-35 overall record over seven seasons.
The program had four seasons with a winning record, including eight-win efforts in 2016 and 2018. The Panthers reached the Division II playoffs in both of those seasons, but lost in the first round.
The Florida Tech football team had a roster of 120 players. Players who attended the university on scholarship will have their scholarships honored “for up to four years,” the school said. Should players choose to transfer, they will be eligible to compete right away at their next school, per NCAA rules. Florida Tech said it will assist players who wish to transfer.
Florida Tech players were informed of the news Monday via an email from the athletic director before speaking with their coaches on a teleconference. No other sports programs are being considered for elimination at this time, the school said.
“These are difficult times for our university,” Florida Tech president Dwayne McCay wrote in a letter issued to the university community. "Indeed, all of higher education is struggling to deal with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty that accompanies a global disruption to daily life. Some universities will no doubt close. Florida Tech, however, has plans to persevere."
In an FAQ posted on its website, Florida Tech said the decision to eliminate football was “based primarily on financial concerns.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, the school spent “about $3.1 million” on football during the 2018-19 fiscal year, accounting for about 29 percent of the athletic department’s budget.
In addition to eliminating the football program, the university will implement staff reductions and furloughs while also closing its center for textile arts.
"The unprecedented uncertainty created by COVID-19 makes these moves prudent, but no less painful," McCay wrote. "We must do what is necessary to preserve resources critical to our educational mission and ensure our ability to successfully serve students when face-to-face instruction resumes this fall. I appreciate each of you, and I am humbled by your hard work and sacrifice."
Other schools around the country have eliminated sports programs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Old Dominion (wrestling) and Cincinnati (men’s soccer) both dropped sports while Florida International will reportedly drop its indoor men’s track and field program.
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