Administration cuts Varsity Alpine and Nordic Ski teams

Kim Sommers

This post was last updated at 11:58 am on Friday Mar. 10, 2009.

At 11:19 a.m. President  George Bridges released a letter (read it in its entirety here) to the community explaining the rationale behind the administration’s decision to cut the varsity Alpine and Nordic ski teams for the coming academic year.

While acknowledging the ski teams’ strong history at Whitman and recent national success, Bridges cites the student experience and available funding as the reasons behind the decision.

Over many years, Whitman skiing has experienced the greatest success when competing with other teams in the Northwest Conference and in national championships of the USCSA,” Bridges wrote. “By withdrawing from NCAA sponsored competition and shifting solely to USCSA competition, I believe our students will experience more success athletically and, by virtue of limiting their travel to competitions with Northwest colleges and universities, more opportunities to participate in on-campus programs at Whitman.”

According to Bridges, the per-student cost of funding the varsity ski program, excluding staff salaries, is the highest among all varsity programs at $5,625. The second highest is the varsity basketball program at $2,600. By cutting the varsity teams, the school is expecting to see an approximate $200,000 in annual savings.

“In these economic times, we cannot justify augmenting or even sustaining the current ski budget while adequately supporting our other athletic teams, and maintaining the SSRA travel budget for competing in NCAA sanctioned sports,” wrote Bridges.

Bridges will hold an open forum with Dean Snider, Athletic Director on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. or Monday Apr. 6 at 7 p.m.in Maxey Auditorium to further discuss the choice to cut the teams.

Ski team members are encouraging students to help “save the ski team” by attending the forum.

“If you don’t want to see the organizations and programs you love disappear from this school,  then make an effort to join the  ski team,” wrote Varsity Alpine Ski team member Brad West in an e-mail to the student listserv.

The decision to make the varsity ski team cut, comes just two weeks after Bridges released an initial  letter to the community detailing the specific cutbacks Whitman would be taking to remain financially sound. According to the letter, next year’s budget calls for a $2 million cut.

“We are trying to have the least impact on students…we’re trying to protect students and the academic core of the program as much as possible,” said Chief Financial Officer, Peter Harvey, on Feb. 18.

Yesterday, on March 9, the ski teams were called for a meeting in Memorial Hall where they met with coaches and administrators to receive the news, said various e-mails sent to the student listservs by members of the team.

Five hours before the ski teams’ learned that their teams had been cut, Dean Snider sent an e-mail to the varsity athletes listserv congratulating the Nordic team on their  recent success and national title they won at last week’s U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association national championships.

“Congratulations to members of the Nordic ski teams and coach  Calisa Schouweiler on great performances,” wrote Snider on March 9.

Following the announcement of the cuts, a barrage of e-mails was sent to the varsity listserv informing varsity athletes and calling for their help.

“I just ask that the varsity athletes could in some way pull together and just support the ski team for one night,” wrote Varsity Alpine ski team member Torey Anderson.

“This budget problem could very well affect any of the other teams soon, and I think it’s a good idea for everyone involved to be more informed on what the hell is going on with our athletics program. One day we were winning national championships, and the next we were cut, so it kind of goes to show that changes this drastic can happen in the blink of an eye.”

Bridges invites the community to submit written comments to him via e-mail at [email protected]