For the first time since 2000, the school will be without an equestrian program. K-State Athletics confirmed the information given to the Collegian with a press release at 9:31 p.m. on Monday.
Due to a recommendation from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, K-State Athletics will part ways with its equestrian program after next season’s scheduled competition. The department will search for a women’s soccer coach in early 2015 and plan for the team’s arrival the following fall semester.
The Committee on Women’s Athletics saw a shortage of sponsorships for equestrian at all three levels of NCAA competition, leading to the recommendation that all universities re-examine their use of the sport.
“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,” K-State Athletic Director John Currie said in K-State’s Monday night press release. “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.”
The recognition of equestrian as an NCAA Division I sport may not come until August 2017, but the athletic department plans to move ahead in preparation for this important change.
Currie and staff also announced their intentions to fully honor scholarships of all current equestrian team members through the duration of their stay at K-State. The rule also applies to the contract given to head coach Casie Maxwell, who is in the second year of a five-year contract.
The Wildcats are currently one of only four Big 12 schools that made up the national membership list. Joining them are TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
The program, which is ranked No. 4 in the NCEA rankings, is coming off of a 10-1 win over Alabama in a Hunt Seat head-to-head matchup. They are also riding a 14-match winning streak in home competition.
K-State President Kirk Schulz said equestrian’s future had been uncertain for some time.
“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, Schulz said. “I am in full support of John’s recommendations and the KSA Board’s decision.”
The university will continue to support the equestrian program until the end of the 2015-16 season. They are scheduled to compete again on Nov. 8 at home against Oklahoma State.
Some members of the equestrian program tweeted out heartfelt sympathies Monday, many with the hashtag #EQ.
"When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope." #EQ
— Kelsey Sousa (@can_KEL_SEY) October 13, 2014
This weather today is a solid representation of how I feel…sad with a chance of sadder
— Kara Guy (@karaguyyy) October 13, 2014
Fighting this battle together will only make us stronger. #EQ
— Danielle Kemper (@danikemper) October 13, 2014
After starting as a club sport in 1999, equestrian grew quickly as the program garnered it’s first national championship within its very first season. The program officially joined K-State Athletics in 2000 due to Title IX requirements.
The university’s influence and emphasis on agriculture was an emphasis toward developing the equestrian program as a varsity sport for K-State.
In total, the program has won nine national championships and has nearly 120 women try out for the team on a yearly basis.
Those titles includes three Team Reserve National Championships as well as five Individual National Championships. The school tallied its greatest win total with 16 victories in 2005.
Under Title IX, public universities and colleges are required to “provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students”. In the K-State press release, it was also announced that K-State would form a new Big 12 intercollegiate women’s soccer team.