PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- La Salle University is reducing the number of intercollegiate athletics teams from 25 to 18 after the academic year, officials announced Tuesday.
The cuts impact the following programs: baseball, men's swimming and diving, men's tennis, men's water polo, softball, volleyball and women's tennis. The programs will compete during this academic year, assuming it is deemed safe to do so, officials said.
"I couldn't believe it. I never thought it would happen," said La Salle freshmen tennis player Erin Gray.
In an open letter to the community on its website, President Colleen M. Hanycz and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Brian Baptiste said this decision will better align the school with members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, which - on average - have 19 intercollegiate athletics teams each. The NCAA average is 18 teams
"Simply put, La Salle Athletics cannot continue to sponsor 25 varsity sports at a competitive level. Sustaining an athletics department that offers more Atlantic 10-sponsored teams than any other in the conference at a university positioned in the conference's bottom-quartile in enrollment is not feasible. The rising costs associated with providing a high-quality Division I student-athlete experience and the financial challenges incurred by the department contributed to this decision. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the need for this change," the letter said.
Officials said the changes are not "a cost-cutting decision, but rather a strategic effort to reallocate our investment."
Erin and her mother say she was promised many things when she was recruited by La Salle's athletic director, one of six universities she was looking at back in November.
"And he told me that he loved tennis and being new, he wanted to do everything to back up tennis," said Erin.
"If they would have been honest, I feel like we've been lied to. If they would have been honest with us, we perhaps would have decided another way," said Erin's mom, Laura Gray.
A La Salle spokesman declined to provide someone to speak on camera or provide any further comment beyond the open letter. The university does say it will honor all existing student athletic scholarships for those students affected through graduation at La Salle.
"First of all, I couldn't believe that we were hearing about it through e-mail. And there was no direct communication from university administrators," said Laura.
Right now, Erin says she plans to complete her studies through the spring semester and then look for a transfer.
"I'm gonna go really hard. I want to show La Salle what they're going to miss and want to show other schools and hopefully, they can pick me up," she said.
The university said they are committed to caring for the approximately 130 student-athletes across seven sports who are directly impacted by the decision.
La Salle University cutting 7 sports teams to 'better align' with Atlantic 10 Conference