BY George C. Upper III, The Western JournalMarch 22, 2023
1 year ago
BY 
 | March 22, 2023
1 year ago

Division-I Christian College Eliminates All Athletic Programs at the End of This Semester

St. Francis College, a small Catholic NCAA Division-I school in Brooklyn, New York, will go into the next academic year without an athletics program.

All St Francis Terrier athletics will end at the end of the spring semester, according to an announcement from the chairman of the school's board of trustees Monday. (The statement appears in its entirety below.)

"[T]he Board of Trustees recently approved a strategic realignment plan which includes the elimination of the College's NCAA Division I athletics program, effective at the conclusion of the Spring 2023 semester," the announcement said.

Coaches and other athletic staff will no longer be employed by the school when the semester concludes.

Students attending on athletic scholarships, however, will continue to receive those scholarships even though they will no longer be competing if they stay at St. Francis.

Writing as the board chair, Denis J. Salamone essentially blamed the decision on financial challenges facing the school.

"[I]ncreased operating expenses, flattening revenue streams, and plateauing enrollment due in part to a shrinking pool of high school graduates in the aftermath of the pandemic" all contributed to the fiscal situation, he wrote.

About an hour after that statement went online, Director of Athletics Irma Garcia issued a response, saying that she was "heartbroken" over the decision.

"My heart hurts for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff," she wrote.

Earlier this month, TheBlaze reported, the St. Francis Terriers men's basketball team lost to fellow conference team Fairleigh Dickinson.

Fairleigh Dickinson then went on to beat first-seeded Purdue Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, becoming only the second 16th-seeded team to best a first seed in tournament history.

"After St. Francis leaves the conference in a few weeks, the Northeast will have just eight teams remaining," TheBlaze reported.

The entire statement from Salamone as published on the college's website appears here:

Since the launch of SFC Forward: Strategic Vision for 2023 & Beyond, the St. Francis College Board of Trustees and Leadership have taken steps to position the College for success, development, and growth. 

These steps include: 

● Investment in new academic programs and revision of curriculum and pedagogy 

● The expansion of the population whom the College serves, both locally and internationally 

● The relocation of the College's primary campus to a modern, state-of-the-art, custom-built facility at 179 Livingston Street 

There are challenges facing higher education institutions, particularly smaller liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, from which SFC is not immune. Among these challenges are increased operating expenses, flattening revenue streams, and plateauing enrollment due in part to a shrinking pool of high school graduates in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Elimination of Athletics 

The St. Francis College Board of Trustees and Leadership are responding to these challenges by acting decisively with plans in place to benefit the College and the students we serve. 

Accordingly, the Board of Trustees recently approved a strategic realignment plan which includes the elimination of the College's NCAA Division I athletics program, effective at the conclusion of the Spring 2023 semester. 

We want to acknowledge that SFC has a rich legacy in competitive athletics, and are proud of our Terriers today and in all years past. This difficult decision was guided by a commitment to preserving the College's 164-year Franciscan mission to provide a high quality and affordable education to working-class and first-generation students. 

To ensure that student-athletes can continue their studies at SFC uninterrupted, the College will honor all current academic and athletic scholarships, even though students will no longer be participating in athletics. 

Employment for athletics staff and coaches will end at the conclusion of the Spring 2023 semester. The College will provide information, recommendations, and next-step guidance to help ease this transition. 

We thank everyone involved in our athletics program for their spirit, dedication, professionalism and commitment to the College. 

Appointment of Acting President 

On March 19, 2023, the Board of Trustees granted Dr. Miguel Martinez-Saenz his request for a personal leave. The Board has appointed Tim Cecere as Acting President, effective March 20, 2023. 

Prior to assuming his current position of Chief Operating Officer in August 2022, Tim was a member of the Board of Trustees. As a member of the Board of Trustees, Tim recognized the College's needs and stepped up to offer his expertise at the perfect time. 

Tim brings decades of experience in business operations, strategic positioning, human relations, and talent development, from his work with WPP, the world's largest advertising, media and public relations company. He earned degrees in psychology and business from St. John's University and a master's degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University. Throughout his career Tim has built strong relationships between the corporate world and academia, serving as a guest lecturer, trainer, and curriculum designer at many institutions of higher education in our region including Syracuse University, Hofstra University, and The City College of New York to name a few. 

Born in Brooklyn, Tim is among the first in his family to attend college, and truly committed to the role this institution can play in the city where he was raised. Tim is also the proud parent of a St. Francis College graduate. 

The Board knows that Tim understands our history, our Franciscan legacy, and our commitment to enhancing our academic programs for today's competitive careers as we build towards the future. 

Our strategy for the future of St. Francis College is solid and unchanged, steadfast in our commitment to providing a first rate, flexible, affordable education for the next generation; firm in our Franciscan values of community, collaboration and connection. 

The Board of Trustees remains dedicated to upholding the unique educational experience for which St. Francis College is widely known and we are thankful to all members of the College community for all you do in service to our students, this institution, and our community. 

Sincerely, 

Denis J. Salamone, '75 

Chair of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: George C. Upper III, The Western Journal

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