At a College, Dropping Sports in Favor of Fitness

Tim Goral's picture

The softball bats and golf clubs have been stored away. All is quiet, too, at the basketball gymnasium, the volleyball courts and the soccer field.

Only the tennis team endures at Spelman College, and after the Great South Athletic Conference tournament the last weekend of April, it will also be done. Then Spelman, a historically black women’s college with alumnae who include former slaves and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will become the second college in the last decade to leave the N.C.A.A. altogether, the other being the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Officials at the college, whose 2,100 students make it the size of some high schools, decided last year to eliminate the athletic department. The college had 80 athletes spread across seven sports, but the athletic budget was roughly $900,000 for the 2012-13 academic year — from an overall operating budget of roughly $100 million.

“I was startled,” Spelman’s president, Beverly Tatum, said. “It seemed like a lot of money for 80 students.”

The highly unusual move by Spelman comes when few institutions seem to be able to resist the lure of intercollegiate sports, even as one scandal after another has tarnished the reputations of universities throughout the country.

Read more