I hope that this letter reaches all of my former Humboldt State teammates, former Jacks that have worn the Green and Gold and all of the Lumberjack supporters out there. I will be sending this letter on to Dr. Lisa Rossbacher along with the rest of the leaders on the HSU campus and in the CSU. Football won’t be cut from Humboldt State without a fight.
This past week some awful news, news that many inside the Humboldt State Athletic Department and University have known about and anticipated for years, was released. Instead of the focus being on the Humboldt State football team going on the road and taking down the No. 8 team in the country, rival Azusa Pacific, it was on whether there will be a football program in two short months. The outcry and response from the news that I have seen through multiple news outlets will hopefully force the administration to pause and think again before they make this decision.
First, to be clear, there is not a financial problem at Humboldt State, there is a leadership problem, starting at the top. Having known about the financial shortfall that was coming when the current President took the job, she has only let it grow and has lacked the decisive decision-making that is required of the position. HSU spent tens-of-thousands of dollars to bring in a consulting firm to help advise her in the process of finding solutions to the current financial problem which she COMPLETELY THREW OUT and ignored. She has also postponed making a decision several times which has continued to let the deficit grow.
The President said a year ago that the “Humboldt State University strategic plan is focused on four key areas: supporting student success, providing a welcoming environment for our diverse community, ensuring that we have the resources needed to fulfill our educational mission, and expanding partnerships, both on- and off-campus.” In what ways will cutting the most successful program on campus be beneficial in serving your strategic plan?
How is cutting athletic programs, specifically football, in line with your strategic plan for the University, which INCLUDES athletics. Getting rid of football is harming students and their pursuit of receiving a degree. It gets rid of the diversity that our University desperately needs that football provides and also will damage partnerships and relationships that have been cultivated over the past decades. There are countless donors and supporters that support the Athletic programs because of the impact sports has on student-athletes.
Coming from a small town in North Bend, Washington, Humboldt State football helped build me into the man I am today. The relationships I made, the people I met, the lessons I learned are all 100 percent attributed to the Humboldt State football program. Coming from a high school that lacked diversity, I was thrown a major curve ball when I arrived in 2011 to a locker room that had players from every corner of the west coast. Oakland, Sacramento, Rocklin, San Diego, Poway, Compton, Los Angeles, you name it. I was able to meet, bond, connect, and work with individuals that I can now call my teammates and brothers FOR LIFE even though we all came from entirely different backgrounds. We all shared a common goal. No where else on campus does a group of students come together like they do in college athletics.
A current report states that there are only 281 (3.41 percent) Black or African American students at Humboldt State University. How are you promoting diversity when a high number of these students are involved with college athletics? There is no question that this group is under-served and not represented properly at Humboldt State and in our community. How is cutting Humboldt State football and athletic teams helping with your strategic plan in promoting diversity when it does the complete opposite?
Most importantly through this ugly situation, what about the kids? What about the coaches that may lose their jobs and their families? Announcing this decision in November will only allow students one month to find new homes before the start of the spring semester as they will no longer be able to pursue their goals and passion in college athletics at Humboldt State. You are in a position to SERVE our students. Announcing this decision in November may be what’s best for you and your colleagues, but don’t forget WHY you have a job and WHO’S best interest you should be considering. The fact that this news broke in the middle of another historical football season at HSU is beyond inappropriate and unprofessional.
I have seen the number of “around 200-250 students” will transfer from the University if football is dropped. I believe that number is a low estimate as that is only the number of student-athletes that will be leaving. This does not include the other students at Humboldt that came because of football and the other athletic programs as they wanted to be a part of the special community too. With struggling enrollment that is showing no signs of improving, how is getting RID of more students going to help? The athletic teams continue to fill their rosters to the maximum number, what good is it to get rid of the schools best recruiters?
What about Arcata and Humboldt County? Only five times a year do 7,000 and more people come together in the community and it is on Saturday nights in the Redwood Bowl. What will Homecoming weekend be like without football? What purpose will the weekend serve if it is not highlighted by a football game in the Redwood Bowl? The sense of community and togetherness that the football program and Humboldt athletics brings can not and should not be underestimated. It should also be noted the potential financial impact that HSU athletics and the football program has for the community, what about the local businesses?
When you add the tens of thousands of dollars spent on the Strategic Edge Report, the hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from IRA fees of the “missing” students that were projected to be attending the University, and another $58,000 in the form of a cancelled Pepsi sponsorship, you have have over $250,000. Yes, with the major financial hole, the leaders on campus elected to not renew a sponsorship which had totaled $58,000.
Seeing the overwhelming support for the program on social media has been special, but changes will have to come from within the University. Just this past spring, all of the Athletic programs were asked to raise money and as football raised over $100,000 which went directly toward athletic scholarships. Football raised their money and a portion of it even went to other teams.
Before you think about cutting the football program, think about the long-lasting impact it will have on YOUR students, coaches, administrators, community members, local business owners and alumni. Cutting the football program will set the University back years and hundreds-of-thousands of more dollars. Taking the easy way out by simply cutting the “biggest” budget item is lazy, irresponsible and won’t be tolerated. The impact the HSU football program had on myself and so many others including your current student-athletes is irreplaceable and a better solution needs to be found.
– Taylor Mitchell, Former HSU Football Player