Denver college may cut athletics to save money

Updated: October 24, 2003, 4:01 AM ET

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- The athletics department at Metropolitan State College in Denver may be eliminated to pay for faculty raises, academic programs and scholarships.

The school's trustees discussed the option Thursday during a retreat on a ranch near Silverthorne, a mountain town about 70 miles west of Denver.

The nine-member board, formed 15 months ago by Gov. Bill Owens, also questioned the need for the school's Chicano and African-American studies program, demanded a top-ranked teacher-education program and called on faculty to re-examine the school's core curriculum by the end of the academic year.

The elimination of athletics drew the loudest response from board members.

The college spends $2.5 million annually for 150 athletes in 10 NCAA Division II sports, interim President Ray Kieft said during the meeting. About 1,500 student spectators attended sporting events last year, he said.

The college spends $1.4 million on athletics, which includes $1.2 million in state scholarship money and $200,000 from foundation contributions. The rest comes from nearly $1 million in student fees and $35,000 in ticket sales.

"At a time of a budget crisis and trying to beef up academic programs -- to spend $2.5 million for the benefit of 150 students is insane," board member Mark Martinez said.

Men's basketball coach Mike Dunlap said athletics attract national publicity.

"The president and the chairman of the trustees couldn't get the school the kind of attention and recognition we provided from three national championship games before 3 million people on CBS and ESPN -- all of it positive attention," Dunlap said.

The college has the top ranked women's soccer team, and the men's basketball team won national championships in 2000 and 2002 and was national runner-up in 1999. The women's volleyball team is now No. 4 in the country. Both the men's and women's tennis teams are perennially ranked.

Kieft said he is not formally advocating for the end of the athletic program, but noted that the school's commuter campus does not attract the same student support as residential campuses.

The board said it would seek public comment, but not before December.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index