PEORIA, Ill. - Bradley University will adjust its men's sports menu for the 2014-15 season: Director of Athletics Dr. Michael Cross today announced plans to reinstate the school's men's indoor track program and eliminate the men's tennis program, both changes effective immediately for the 2014-15 season. The moves were thoroughly reviewed by Bradley's Intercollegiate Athletics Council and it unanimously supported the changes.
"Athletic departments across the country are trying to come to grips with ever-increasing costs and we are on the verge of a new wave of expenses," said Cross. "The NCAA is moving toward higher standards for student-athlete welfare in the next few months. Regardless of whether you believe the national changes that are occurring are the right direction for college athletics, these benefits all have real costs and there needs to be a way to pay for them. These factors, coupled with the University's recently-announced budget expectations, make these two decisions necessary."
The addition of men's indoor track comes two years after the reinstatement of the men's outdoor track program and will give Bradley's cross country runners a year-round, competition-fueled distance running program. Bradley competed in men's indoor track and field through 1992, before shelving the program for the last 22 years.
Less than two years after the outdoor track program was reinstated in January 2012, the Bradley men's cross country team enjoyed its best season in nearly 25 years this past fall. Paced by a pair of top 10 individual performances to go along with the MVC Freshman-of-the-Year award, Bradley finished fourth at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Men's Cross Country Championship, the squad's best showing at the league championship since 1989. Junior Eric Delvo ran Bradley's fastest MVC Championship 8K in school history and his seventh-place individual finish was the best by a Brave since 1984. Junior Chase Coffey finished 10th at the MVC Cross Country Championships, giving Bradley a pair of all-conference performers for the first time since 1987. In addition, Patrick Campbell finished 15th in the individual standings to earn honorable mention all-conference honors and the 2013 MVC Freshman-of-the-Year award.
Delvo and Coffey followed with strong performances during the outdoor track season. Both qualified for the 2014 NCAA Championship West Preliminaries in the men's steeplechase, becoming the first Braves to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships since high-jumper Jim Potter in the mid-1970's.
"Reinstating indoor track will build on the improved performance of our student-athletes in the same manner that occurred after reinstating outdoor track," said Cross. "The opportunity to increase our performance at almost no additional expense, retain NCAA sports sponsorship funding and comply with Title IX makes this a wise choice at this time. I'm very excited for our student-athletes to be able to compete year round."
With Creighton's 2013 move to the Big East Conference and its replacement by Loyola Chicago, which does not sponsor the sport, only four other Missouri Valley Conference schools sponsor men's tennis. The NCAA requires conferences to include at least six teams in order to earn automatic qualification to its championship tournaments and the grace period for The Valley to return to a six-team minimum in men's tennis will expire after the 2014-15 season.
"The decision to no longer sponsor men's tennis is incredibly difficult," said Cross. "My heart goes out to the student-athletes who will lose an important part of their collegiate experience. We will continue to support each of them educationally in the same way we have been doing since their arrival should they wish to stay. But, unfortunately, we cannot continue to offer the sport I know they all love."
Bradley has fielded a men's tennis program since 1921 and the program concluded the 2013-14 season with a 669-756-18 (.470) all-time dual match record, including a 22-104 (.175) MVC regular-season record since the league began sponsoring a round-robin schedule format in 1996-97.
Bradley graduated half of its eight-man men's tennis squad last month and freshman Nico Rakitin already had requested a release from his scholarship to seek a transfer. Bradley's two remaining scholarship players will be permitted to maintain their current athletic grants-in-aid for the duration of their four-year undergraduate academic careers if they choose to remain at the school. The program currently is without a head coach following Tim Gray's resignation last month.
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