Florida Tech eliminates football because of coronavirus pandemic

The Division II school had about a dozen Tampa Bay area alumni on its roster.
Local players like former Countryside High quarterback Trent Chmelik dotted the roster at Florida Tech.
Local players like former Countryside High quarterback Trent Chmelik dotted the roster at Florida Tech. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 11, 2020|Updated May 11, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on college sports continued Monday when Florida Tech announced the immediate elimination of its football program.

The NCAA Division II school in Melbourne is believed to be the first program to disband football in the wake of the public health and economic crisis. The program was started in 2011 and recruited the Tampa Bay area heavily; a dozen players on its roster were from local high schools.

“The unprecedented uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the university to make difficult personnel and programmatic decisions,” the school explained in a Q&A on its website. “Eliminating the expense of the football program is a necessary step to ensure that Florida Tech can continue meeting its core educational mission.”

The school spent $3.1 million on football during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to figures submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s about 29 percent of the athletic department’s $10.7 million budget.

Related: How the coronavirus pandemic has changed football recruiting

Florida Tech said it informed the team of the decision via email, which was followed up with a teleconference. It affects 120 players and eight coaches, and the school said it will honor scholarships for up to four years.

This is just the latest sign of the financial fallout of the pandemic. Although no major programs have disbanded football, Florida International is reportedly cutting its men’s indoor track program, while Old Dominion (wrestling) and Cincinnati (men’s soccer) are also dropping sports. Coaches and administrators at other schools have taken pay cuts or furloughs, and the Gators are keeping some inessential positions vacant.

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