UMass ski team cut

Over the past week, the University of Massachusetts baseball program was the rumored casualty of the $850,000 budget reduction of the athletic department.

Instead, the men’s and women’s ski teams took the brunt of the damage on Thursday when UMass athletic director John McCutcheon announced both programs would be dropped as varsity sports.

The baseball program, as well as the other 18 teams at UMass, appears to be safe ‘- at least for now.

‘This is an extremely difficult decision,’ said McCutcheon in a prepared statement released Thursday. ‘The skiing programs have been a big part of the athletic history at UMass. We want to recognize the contributions that those associated with the programs both past and present have made to the University.

‘Additionally it is our intent to support a transition to club sport status for both teams. It is our sincere hope that current and future skiers will have an opportunity to have a positive experience at the club level.’

Skip Fox, who coaches both the men’s and women’s teams, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

According to the release, the athletic department will also ‘make administrative reductions, across the board operating cuts and use non-base funding to fill the remaining gap,’ to reach the $850,000 budget reduction.

Amy Gifford, a member of the women’s team, told The Daily Collegian that members of the team received e-mails at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning requesting their attendance for a meeting at 11:30 a.m. with McCutcheon.

That’s when McCutcheon explained to the teams that the athletic department had decided to cut the skiing programs.

‘A lot of us came to UMass so we could come to ski, none of us expected that this would happen,’ she said. ‘I’m disappointed and frankly shocked even though I knew our school was having a lot of budget issues.’

Gifford said a team meeting was held Wednesday night discussing the possibility that this might happen.

‘We had heard the baseball team might get cut, so we thought we might have a chance since we’re such a small team and have such a low budget anyway ‘- as opposed to the baseball team which has such a large budget,’ she said. ‘But, I think some of us were questioning whether they’d actually cut the baseball team.’

UMass baseball coach Mike Stone reacted to the news Thursday afternoon.

‘It’s too bad when any sport gets cut,’ Stone said.‘We’re reenergized and excited about not having to deal with the rumors and the distraction of that situation.’

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]