Opinion: Why the Athletic Department made the wrong call 


 Enrique Carrasco, Editor

La Salle University

In mid September 2020, La Salle University, with no previous warning or prior announcement to athletes, announced it was cutting seven different D1 sports programs. With no advanced warning from the coaches, hundreds of recruits (many of whom were international students) and players ended up transferring out of La Salle in order to further continue their collegiate sports careers. Amongst these seven teams, several stand out, mainly baseball (a team that ended the season with their best record in many years) who had just received a brand new field that is now used as a field hockey field, as well as men’s water polo, who ended their 2020 season ranked #12 in the country. The school used the pretense of wanting to fulfill their Title IX requirements and cut baseball, men’s water polo, men’s and women’s tennis, volleyball, softball and men’s swimming and diving (which got reinstated).

While these sports programs getting cut allowed the school to meet Title IX requirements, it also gave the athletic department much more freedom in their budget, allowing them to spread this money to the sports that currently remain. A large part of this money goes into the men’s basketball team (a bit of it also goes into the women’s team). Yet, despite being the “biggest” sport at this school, the men’s basketball program has failed to perform in any way, shape or form. The men’s basketball program still holds onto the glory of making the Sweet Sixteen in 2013, something that they have failed to do ever since. La Salle is paying a record-breaking $750,000 to head coach Ashley Howard (who won a national championship as assistant coach of Villanova), just for him to have a losing record of 40-61 since 2018. 

Members of the La Salle men’s basketball team get preferred housing (freshmen get to live in the St. Miguel Townhouses, something no other freshman has the right to), preferred dinner meals and preferred class selections. They get all of these benefits, simply to be (at the time of writing this) 6-10 in the season, and last place in the A-10 conference (historically one of the easiest conferences to win). Attendance at the men’s basketball games is so low that the Athletics Department had to start offering prizes in order for students to simply show up at the games. These are all signs of a failing program, and, in my opinion, one of the programs that should have been cut.

I believe the Athletic Department made a mistake by not cutting the men’s basketball program in favor of other programs, and the school is seeing the negative side effects now. Athletic Director Brian Baptiste is seeing his puny plan of saving money and increasing funding for big sports such as basketball burn right in front of his own eyes. This can be seen with how few people actually show up for women’s basketball games, despite it being a better team than the men and having a better record in the season. 

At the time of writing this article, women’s basketball is 11-6 in the season and third in the Atlantic 10. The athletic department does very little to promote the women’s games compared to the men’s, which shows how the Athletic Department only cares about men’s basketball, despite their failure year after year, rather than their more successful teams. Despite still having the old head coach John Giannini on payroll, the school decided to increase its funding to the basketball team, and a $750,000 salary to Ashley Howard and his disastrous sports program. Another sign of the terrible plan from the Athletic Department can be seen in the numerous players on the men’s soccer team who have chosen to transfer out of La Salle rather than continue to play with this horrific athletic department. 

The school vowed to improve the experiences for the sports that were not cut, but, as it can be seen, they only improved the experience for the men’s basketball team and Howard.

Regardless of how much talent Howard recruits, how much money he gives his athletes, or how many extra benefits they get, the basketball program remains a mess that struggles to win against teams with fewer wins than them and gets swept by nationally-ranked teams, such as the embarrassing loss they faced against Villanova. If you look at the embarrassingly low percentage of field goals made by the players on the team (most of whom are on a full ride), you can see for yourself how these athletes are simply not performing.

I believe, and will always firmly believe, that Brian Baptiste (as well as the Athletic Department as a whole) made a terrible mistake by cutting the teams that they did, and now they have to see the flames of the garbage fire that is their financial plan burn right in front of their eyes.

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