K-State to Discontinue Women's Equestrian

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association team of Kansas State University will compete through the 2015-16.

K-State Sports

Former K-State student-athlete blogged for the Journal in 2013; read about how competing for the K-State equestrian team impacted her life.

Following a recent NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics recommendation to drop the intercollegiate sport of equestrian as an emerging Division I women's program, K-State Athletics Director John Currie announced Monday that K-State will discontinue its sponsorship of equestrian at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season.
 
In keeping with K-State's commitment to improving opportunities for female student-athletes, Currie also announced that K-State will add the school's first-ever intercollegiate women's soccer program, allowing the Wildcat athletics program to maintain its sponsorship of 16 varsity sports as required by NCAA bylaw 20.9.6. Currie's recommendations were approved Monday by the K-State Athletics, Inc. Board of Directors and President Kirk Schulz.

In a letter to the equestrian community last month, the Committee on Women's Athletics detailed its decision regarding equestrian based on a lack of sponsorship in all three NCAA divisions, including a 10-year period in which the sport failed to reach the 40-program target set by the NCAA as well as the significant costs of maintaining such programs. K-State is just one of 19 Division I equestrian programs in the nation, and according to a recent NCAA publication, only 719 student-athletes currently compete in Division I equestrian

"While this was an extremely difficult and complex decision, we are proud of the effort of our equestrian coaches and student-athletes and the first class way they have represented K-State since the program's inception in 2000," Currie said. "Unfortunately with equestrian no longer projected to count toward the minimum NCAA requirement of 16 sponsored varsity programs as detailed in NCAA Bylaw 20.9.6, we must move our resources to another sport to continue our ability to operate as a Division I FBS member of the NCAA."

Although the NCAA's recognition of equestrian may not end until August 1, 2017, allowing schools which sponsor the sport time to make adjustments, Currie believes a more immediate transition is in the best interest of K-State.

"There is never a perfect time for a decision such as this, but to keep with our goal of operating in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner, we believe a transition beginning in 2015-16 creates the best opportunity to allocate limited resources in a manner that propels our program toward our goal of a world-class student-athlete experience," Currie said. 

Currie also announced that the school will fully honor the scholarships of its current equestrian student-athletes for the remainder of their eligibility as well as the contract of Head Coach Casie Maxwell, who is currently in the second year of a five-year contract. 

"Our equestrian student-athletes and coaches have been dedicated Wildcats and they will forever be part of the K-State Athletics family and recognized as key historical contributors to our vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program with the privileges and honors accorded all our former student-athletes," Currie added.

"I appreciate the careful way John and his staff have evaluated this transition and K-State's options," said K-State President Kirk Schulz. "While we are proud of the accomplishments under Coach Maxwell's leadership, we have known for several years that intercollegiate equestrian had an uncertain future as an NCAA sport. I am in full support of John's recommendations and the KSA Board's decision."

K-State began varsity competition in the sport of equestrian in 2000. In nearly 15 years of competition the Wildcats have claimed five individual national titles, three team reserve national championships and consistently been ranked among the top 10 programs nationally.  

"We have worked hard to support our team with a current annual operating budget of $1.2 million and facility expenditures and improvements of $700,000 over the last five years," Currie said. "But, the fact is that the sport simply hasn't grown as was hoped and nearly every one of our border state peer institutions, and every Big 12 institution, sponsors soccer. Reallocating those resources to soccer better serves the young people of our region and advances the institution toward the K-State 2025 vision of moving into the top 50 public research universities."

Continue reading the press release from K-State Sports.