File Photo: Former Humboldt State Football Coach Rob Smiths delivers his last after game home speech from fall 2017 season on Nov. 11 at the Redwood Bowl Stadium. Smith retired at the end of the 2017 season. | Photo by Gabe Rivera

Football gets the boot

HSU Football program cut due to budget crisis

Early this afternoon, Humboldt State University announced that after this 2018 season the football program will be cut.

“This [decision] is due to ongoing financial challenges within athletics and at the university as a whole,” Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher said. “We cannot allow the budget deficit in athletics to continue or to deepen further.”

This April, Rossbacher announced the two-year budget plan in reducing costs by at least $9 million and many hoped that the football program would not be a part of this cut. However, according to the HSU Athletic Department, the net cost of about $1 million annually became too expensive for the University to support and subsidize indefinitely.

“It is the only realistic path for us to take,” Rossbacher said.

Redshirt Sophomore Kyle Martorella called home as soon as he received the news. He said he was very surprised and upset after hearing the program would be cut.

“I can really only see myself playing at Humboldt so it sucks,” Martorella said. “I thought we were guaranteed another five years and that was what the money was raised for.”

Since December 2017, HSU boosters, alumni and community members put forth their utmost effort in reaching a goal of $500,000 that would have ensured another solid year of football at the Redwood Bowl. During that time Rossbacher announced if $500,000 was collected by January of each year, for the next five years, the University would match it with another $500,000 to keep the program.

Although SaveHSUAthletics confirmed nearly $511,000 in pledges last fall, only $329,000 in cash donations were collected in June, according to Rossbacher.

However, SaveHSUAthletics Co-Founder and HSU alum Jim Redd shared that in fact, a total of $410,000 was collected.

“I know that a payment of $80,000 was scheduled to come in, and received on July 15th,” said Redd.

The total amount of donations that were collected will be used for this last football season at HSU and all of the scholarships awarded will be honored to eligible players through the 2018-2019 academic year.

“We are going to be very supportive of the current players and coaches this year,” Redd said. “The support is going to drop way off for HSU athletics as a whole.”

Although several boosters donate to other HSU athletic programs as well, Redd and his fellow boosters believe cutting the program was all a part of Athletic Director Duncan Robins’ plan and because of that, many supporters no longer want to give money to HSU athletics at all.

“There are a lot of donors upset and wanting their money back,” said Redd. “I just feel like Robins was hired to get rid of the program. It took him seven months longer than he would have liked but he succeeded.”

HSU’s athletic department said it plans on providing as much support as needed for current players, whether they choose to complete their academic years at HSU or to transfer to another school and continue playing football.

HSU junior and 2018 captain Isaiah Hall said he plans on “riding out” with a strong team for this last HSU football season and hopes to ensure his team that this decision should not interrupt what they have accomplished for the success of this season so far.

“I always had a feeling that this was bound to happen,” Hall said. “When [Rossbacher] was on the podium talking about keeping the program, her words felt untruthful.”

After this season, Hall is eligible to play two more collegiate years of football and after speaking with his family he plans to have a successful season and transfer to play at another university come spring.

As for new recruits, Chris Quirarte from Buhach Colony High School and Braden Gordon from Independence High School, new beginnings have already come to an end. Both of the newly announced Jacks from Southern California said they were not sure what to think about the news and immediately contacted family for support.

“I am stuck on whether I want to redshirt or play this year,” Quirarte said. “The decision changes my outlook on the season a little but I am not trying to pull the trigger on my decision too early.”

Last year, HSU athletics held a deficit of about $750,000 in which the university covered; and three years ago that deficit was at $250,000. The rate of cost increases in the athletics department at HSU has been roughly double of the university costs in whole.

Rossbacher said she still plans on maintaining a Division II athletics program at HSU and in order to remain eligible for NCAA Division II competition, the University is required to have 10 sports. According to the HSU Athletic Department To remain in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, HSU’s primary conference, the 10 sports are required to be chosen from a specified list, and football is not included on that list.

After this 2018 football season, HSU will sponsor 11 sports: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track & field, crew, softball and volleyball.

“At this point we just have to come together as a team,” Martorella said. “We still have 10 games like any other season and we can still win a ring like any other season.”

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