CEDAR CITY — There will be one fewer intercollegiate sport on campus at Southern Utah.
The Thunderbirds announced the elimination of men’s and women’s tennis Tuesday, effective immediately.
“We are committed to providing our student-athletes with the best possible academic and athletic experience,” SUU president Scott Wyatt said in a statement from the university. “By reducing the number of athletic offerings by two, we can provide a higher level of support to our students and improve the experience for our fans.”
The decision was not made due to the COVID-19 pandemic or the presumed economic impact expected of most college and university athletic programs in the upcoming season. Rather, the decision allows the Thunderbirds to fall more in line with the rest of the Big Sky Conference. SUU had previously sponsored 17 intercollegiate sports, whereas most of the 11 full-time members of the conference sponsored 14-15.
Recent legislation passed by the league allowed members more flexibility in sponsoring sports, and the discontinuation of men’s and women’s tennis will not affect their standing as a full-time league member.
The men’s team finished 3-7 in its final year of competition, one that was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They won 15 duels each of the past two seasons, but never finished above .500 prior to the 2017-18 season, including winless seasons for four-straight years from 2013-16.
The women’s team went 3-10 in the curtailed 2020 season, but won just eight matches in three seasons from 2015-17 to set up other changes in the program prior to its discontinuation.
The athletic department will honor the scholarships of all players currently on either tennis team, or work to facilitate a move to continue their collegiate career elsewhere.
Of the other Division I universities in Utah, only Utah Valley does not sponsor men’s and women’s tennis. That includes Dixie State, which added both programs to move up to Division I this year.
The Thunderbirds previously played many of their tennis matches in St. George.