LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - COVID-19 changed the landscape of college athletics in 2020. For McNeese, it was a double.. or triple whammy having to deal with the pandemic, then two hurricanes.
“This decision to suspend golf for the next year or so was one that really kept me up at night,” McNeese athletic director Heath Schroyer said. “I feel for those kids and our supporters. But I also have the responsibility to get our athletic department back on stable financial ground. When you look at the damage COVID created as well as what the hurricanes did with blowing out our suites and not having H&HP, there’s a lot of lost revenue there.”
In the 2019 season, both the men’s and women’s golf teams spent nearly the entire season on the road. Of the 21 tournaments the school played in, only four were within 150 miles of the McNeese campus. The teams’ travel costs had McNeese spending roughly half a million dollars a year.
The Pokes join more than 80 Division I programs that have either suspended or cut athletic programs this year – and McNeese has hurricane repairs in addition to COVID costs other schools are dealing with.
“We’re going through a global pandemic, like everyone else in the country, and you have to take a tough look on how you’re going to make budget. We’re not immune to what other universities are going through across the country. Even the power five schools are losing between 75-100 million dollars because of the pandemic and lost revenue,” Heath Schroyer said. “We have to make budget and we’re just in a time, like any other business across the country that has to make tough decisions, and this was an extremely tough one.”
It’s tough for those golfers, too. We spoke with one who’s decided to move forward with graduation and since the golf program’s future is unknown – she plans to seek a Master’s degree elsewhere.
McNeese athletic director Heath Schroyer said the school intends on bringing the golf program back eventually.
“Without a doubt, there is a place for golf in Southwest Louisiana,” Heath Schroyer said. “I understand that. This was a very hard decision to make. Not only for me but also for Dr. Burckel. But it was one that we had to make at this time.”
As for the golfers on McNeese’s roster, they have two options moving forward.
They can transfer schools and play right away, or stay at McNeese, on scholarship, and participate in McNeese’s final golf season in 2021.
For the golfer we spoke with, it isn’t about the scholarship – but the opportunity to play a sport she’s passionate about.
She tells 7Sports she learned about the cancellation via email – and just wishes she and her teammates were given a chance to defend the program.
“Every scholarship for every male and female golfer will be honored and will be honored throughout their tenure here,” said Schroyer. “We are not going to touch those scholarships. It was something that I really fought for and wanted, and the president wanted as well. This is very hard, but we’re going to do right by not only these student-athletes but for Coach Fluty as well. We’re going to pay him throughout his contract. It was a really hard decision, but we’re trying to make the best out of it.”