The Gillette College women’s soccer team, which has since been cut, celebrating their NJCAA North Plains District Championship win against Iowa Western at home. (H/t Ryan Shippy, Gillette College)
Sheridan and Gillette colleges jointly announced Thursday they would be cutting their National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I athletic programs, effective immediately. This means both schools’ NJCAA teams, including the men’s and women’s basketball and soccer teams, are out, as well as the Sheridan College women’s volleyball team.
The rodeo teams at both schools, however, will continue with significantly reduced budgets.
These reductions are a part of a $3.96 million cutback stemming from a statewide financial fallout tied to the coronavirus pandemic as well as imminent cuts to ongoing funding from the state of Wyoming, according to a June 25 press release from the Northern Wyoming Community College District (NWCCD).
Eliminating these sports programs, per the release, is expected to save the district $2.8 million.
“This decision was far from easy and definitely not something we wanted to take away from our student-athletes,” Dr. Walt Tribley, president of the NWCCD that includes Sheridan and Gillette colleges and the Sheridan College Campus in Johnson County, said. “However, we simply cannot maintain a vision that includes full-time coaches, full-ride athletic scholarships coming from our general fund, and expensive recruitment and travel.”
Not only does the district’s decision leave a number of coaches and assistant coaches without jobs, but it also leaves over a hundred student-athletes without sports to play in the 2020-20201 schoolyear.
In a Friday morning call with County 17, Tribley said both colleges will honor athletic scholarships, and he reiterated that the NWCCD is committed to making special arrangements for those students who are affected.
“All athletes will be released from their commitments to NWCCD,” he said, noting the district has anywhere from 100 to 200 student-athletes.
He also said he’s been exploring various ways to reduce costs since beginning his tenure as president of NWCCD last year in July.
Prior to cutting the sports programs, he said, their budget-trimming efforts included not filling several open administrative and staff positions and implementing reorganizations to eliminate seven full-time positions.
Other cost-saving measures will be instituted moving forward, Tribley noted, such as reducing utility consumption, cutting variable operating budgets and other efficiency-related actions.
Additionally, between $500,000 – $650,000 are being cut from administrative and academic programs, he said. This includes discontinuing the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management programs, for example, and looking at “reimagining funding” for groups like the Gillette College Energy City Voices touring choir.
Traditionally, funding for the Energy City Voices and subsequent scholarships has been drawn from the general fund, Tribley said.
“We’re looking for a fiscally sustainable way to offer Energy City Voices,” he added. “But, yes, it’s being discontinued in its current form.”
The campus police departments will be reduced by $260,000 as well, he said.
So far, Tribley said he personally has not taken a salary cut, though the president’s office has experienced roughly a 10% reduction within the past year.
Tribley earns a $220,000 salary, which is 12% less than the previous NWCCD president garnered, Claire Barnes, NWCCD public relations specialist, said in an email Friday.
Everyone saw the cuts coming, Tribley said, noting Governor Mark Gordon’s recent warning to expect across-the-board, state-wide reductions in funding, including higher education.
When asked about the seemingly overnight announcement, Tribley said he’d chosen to meet one-on-one with the department heads and coaches to give the “grace and honor and respect” of a face-to-face discussion as opposed to a mass email.
“We were not sure the degree to which the pandemic and cuts in state funding would impact the two campuses,” he said, following their budgetary discussions in February prior to the pandemic.
Now, however, the cuts may be even higher than previously imagined, he said, and potentially as high as another 20% in the foreseeable future.
“It’s going to be ongoing,” he said, “so, I need ongoing funding solutions not one-time funding solutions.”