Seton Hall axes track teams

The Seton Hall men’s and women’s track teams will be eliminated to cut costs in the Athletic Department, Athletics Director Joe Quinlan and University President Msgr. Robert Sheeran announced Wednesday.

The university will save $1.5 million a year when the track program, comprised of four men’s and women’s track and field teams, is officially terminated on July 1, the start of Seton Hall’s new fiscal year.

Quinlan said the money saved will be “reallocated in an equitable place” to keep the university’s athletics program strong.

The Athletic Department did not make any of the athletes or coaches available for comment.

Just a day prior to the announcement – at the men’s basketball game vs. Rutgers at Prudential Center – the track team was recognized with an on-court ceremony for excellence in the Big East Indoor Championships. Both the men’s and women’s 4×400 relay teams won at the conference’s championship meet on Sunday.

“This is one of those really painful decisions,” Sheeran said. “It’s a storied tradition. In the ‘50s, some of the country’s greatest runners were from Seton Hall.”

Twenty-nine athletes from the track program have been enshrined in the Seton Hall Athletic Hall of Fame, most recently Tracy Baskin, recognized as the No. 1 college athlete in the nation in the 1980s, and Shana Williams, the first woman in Big East history to win the outdoor high jump four times in the 1990s. Both were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Sheeran also announced a women’s golf program will be added to stay in compliance with Title IX regulations, which call for equality in intercollegiate athletics.

The golf program will cost between $190,000 and $200,000 depending on scholarships, according to Quinlan.

Quinlan said approximately 24 student-athletes (from both indoor/outdoor track and cross country) and five coaches will be affected by the elimination of the track program.

“The students on scholarship will be honored for the duration of their time here,” Quinlan said. “If a student comes and tells us that he wants to run and another school can allow them to do that, we will give them an un-blanketed release.”

According to the NCAA Transfer Guide, any transferring athlete “must spend one academic year in residence” at a new school before gaining playing eligibility.

However, the rule is generally waived by the NCAA when a program is eliminated from a school. Such was the case at Hofstra University when it ended its football program in December.

Quinlan said during the conference call that he just came from a meeting with the athletes.

“There is great disappointment and great sadness,” Quinlan said. “They are upset and have lots of questions. They want to know why track (was cut). It is a financial decision. And, though I don’t want to use this with students, it is a business decision.”

Head coach John Moon, who was not made available for comment during the conference call announcing the decision, is currently in his 38th year as head coach at Seton Hall and is widely regarded as one of the best track coaches in the nation.

Moon has served as an assistant coach for the United States men’s track team during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He is also a member of the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame and a multiple award winner throughout his esteemed career.

Under Moon, the track team has won seven NCAA Championships, sent 19 athletes to Olympic competition, and has seen 71 athletes earn All American honors.

“John is a gentleman, always has been,” Sheeran said. “It was a difficult meeting (after the decision). John is a gentleman and has been a friend for a long time.”

Quinlan noted there have been talks with Moon about remaining at the university in some capacity.

Seton Hall now joins just Marquette and West Virginia as the only Big East schools to field 13 varsity athletic teams.

“There are a number of other Big East schools that field only 13 teams and are doing quite successful,” Quinlan said.

Sheeran sent out a broadcast e-mail to the university community early Wednesday night to officially announce the decision.

“We need to invest in areas that we are strongest and that goes into our competition in the Big East,” Sheeran said.

Brian Wisowaty can be reached at brian.wisowaty@student.shu.edu.
Tim LeCras can be reached at timothy.lecras@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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