INDIANAPOLIS – The Fort Wayne Titans baseball team struck out Thursday when the Ivy Tech Community College Board of Trustees voted 8-1 to dissolve the team next year due to financial and gender equity concerns.
The move also means the women's volleyball team will cease, though that team currently doesn't have any players. The baseball team has 38 players enrolled – with 22 of them set to graduate in May.
“We understand the rationale and appreciate the trustees allowing students a full year to plan for their future and complete their current academic programs at Ivy Tech,” Fort Wayne Chancellor Kim Barnett-Johnson said. “This decision is not reflective of the performance of the teams on the field, on the court, in the classroom, or in the community.”
“These student-athletes have performed admirably, with winning seasons, good grades, and performing over 300 hours of community service,” she continued. “We applaud their contributions to the college as students and athletes.”
Since 2018, the Ivy Tech Fort Wayne campus has competed in men's baseball in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Community and campus leaders considered it an additional opportunity for engagement on campus while the students work to earn a certificate or degree from Ivy Tech.
But the program parameters required the team be funded by private dollars. And the school had to start a women's volleyball team to meet Title IX requirements for equity. That still wasn't enough female athletes to provide balance, which meant for the baseball team to continue other women's teams would have to be added.
“While this was a difficult decision, discontinuing the Ivy Tech athletics program is a fiscally sustainable move for the college given Ivy Tech's primary mission is workforce development and academic transfer,” Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said. “To maintain the program, the college would have to dramatically increase the number of sports and student participation, increasing the costs to a level that is not likely to be sustainable through fundraising.”
The resolution passed by the trustees discontinues participation in sports at the Fort Wayne Ivy Tech campus as of June 30, 2023. And the board will not reconsider participation for at least three years.
Sixteen baseball players are returning for next year, and there are 14 new recruits.
The expenses for the Fort Wayne baseball program have more than doubled in three years, increasing from $50,444 for the 2018-19 season to $147,399 for the 2020-21 season, Ivy Tech spokeswoman Mary Jane Michalak said. The increase was largely due to adding fall baseball.
The anticipated budget for the 2021-22 season is $106,839.
For the first three years, fundraising efforts covered the costs. But this year there was a shortfall. The Ivy Tech Foundation got permission from donors of unrestricted dollars to cover the gap.
Another consideration in the decision was the difficulty of meeting Title IX rules for equal participation among men and women. Starting with the 2022-23 academic year, Ivy Tech would need to add three women's programs to be fully implemented within three to five years and have more than 50 women participate, Michalak said. Each new women's sport would cost between $50,000 and $75,000.
An external analysis, conducted by the consulting firm Chamberlin-Dunn, also found no statistical significance between athletes and students being retained and earning a credential.
No other Ivy Tech campus has asked for athletics since Fort Wayne started the athletics program.