I warn you, if you are a diehard fan or lived during this time period, this will hurt. All of my research I have done in the years prior was focused on the games and events surrounding the team and its play. After reading an emotional post on the UTA forum (15th post of the thread) and seeing a Shorthorn tweet with the front page showing the announcement, I realized I never looked through the archives of any newspaper to get the news account.
I did yesterday and the feeling of despair by the fans and Maverick Club was palpable. Kudos to Chuck Curtis for maintaining his composure during the most turbulent of times.
Instinctively, many place the blame squarely on President Nedderman. He gave football every opportunity to improve. The only blame I put on him is not giving the 1986 team a chance and Coach Curtis a full three years to turn it around.
Otherwise, I echo the sentiments Randy Galloway put forth in his column.
Dr. WENDELL NEDDERMAN, president, University of Texas at Arlington -- here's a guy who had the toughest call of all this week. For financial reasons, Nedderman decided to bag a UTA football program that dated back to 1911. Blame apathy from the student body and the fans. Don't blame Nedderman. In 12 years as school president, he continually juggled funds to keep the football team financially competitive. Nedderman wanted a football program. The problem was that UTA didn't have enough fans like Wendell Nedderman.
If blame has to be assessed, the students primarily for not showing are the biggest reason. Two secondary reasons are an Athletic Department and prior Administration that put forth a terrible product and the Admin who willingly let UTA go from a proud University to a commuter.
Maybe another post in the future on what it will take to bring football back. Until then, I mournfully leave you with this.
UTA eliminates football because of program costs
ARLINGTON -- University of Texas at Arlington President Wendell Nedderman announced Monday afternoon the school has eliminated its football program. Nedderman, reading a prepared statement at a news conference attended by several UTA players, said an athletic deficit of nearly $1 million was the reason for dropping the 66-year-old program.
"We regret that we find it necessary to take a drastic step in modifying our athletic program at the University of Texas at Arlington,' Nedderman said. "A level of deficit financing has been reached which cannot be continued. Thus we have no choice but to immediately discontinue our most costly sport -- football -- and thus reduce our athletic budget by over $1 million per year.'
UTA's $2 million athletic budget included a $915,000 deficit for football in 1985. Poor attendance and lack of revenue have been problems for the NCAA Division I-AA school for most of the last 15 years. UTA has the highest Southland Conference enrollment at 23,000, but had the lowest average attendance at 5,600 a game.
The announcement stunned most involved with UTA football. Jack Davis, past president of the Maverick Club, UTA's 900-member booster organization, said the club's leadership will meet Tuesday to map a strategy to change the decision. The booster club raised a record $323,000 for UTA athletics this year.
"I just can't imagine this is an irreversible decision, especially if there is an outpouring of support for the football program from the community,' Davis said.
However, Nedderman, who made his decision after consulting with the University of Texas System board of regents, said, "As far as I'm concerned, it's settled.' Asked if anything could change his mind, he said, "Somebody would have to come up with a million dollars a year for an indefinite period.'
UTA football players and coaches, many of whom learned of the decision at the 2 p.m. news conference, expressed surprise and disappointment.
"I think we could have generated more excitement with the winning team we would have had next year,' said Coach Chuck Curtis, who ended his second year at UTA, which last won a Southland football title in 1981. "We lost the conference title by a total of seven points this year. And we have most of our players coming back.'
"It hurts me. It hurts a lot,' said freshman wingback Carlton Liggins, who played for Curtis at Cleburne High School two years ago and who was recruited by many colleges, including Nebraska. "The thing that bothers me most is that we were a family, and they tore us apart. I still respect Curtis. He told me he was going to take care of us. And he will take care of us. He is a coach of his word.'
"We started hearing about this (news conference) in the morning,' senior Don DeLozier said. "I didn't know what it was about. I didn't know if it might be some player was getting money, coach (Chuck) Curtis was going to get the Texas Tech job or what.
"Some people said they heard they were thinking about dropping it. But no one on the team really thought they would. After the last game, coach Curtis was talking about how good we should be next year. I was even going to come back as a graduate assistant.'
On Monday, Curtis was talking about trying to help his players get scholarships to other schools. "First, I'll talk to them about their options. (stay at UTA or transfer). Or they can come with me wherever I'll land.'
UTA finished the season last weekend with a 4-6-1 record. The Mavericks were 7-4 in 1984, with an average attendance of 7,500. The largest UTA home attendance this season was 7,205 for the opener against Angelo State University.
Student apathy and poor attendance for home games have been consistent problems for UTA, which has many commuter students. Nedderman said the team's performance was not a factor in the decision.
"This has nothing to do with this season's record,' said Nedderman, who has been UTA president for 12 years. "This is a battle I have been fighting for many years. And the escalating expenses of travel, equipment, and all aspects kept spiraling up. If there had been more students in the stands, it might have made us feel better about the amount of money we were spending.'
Nedderman ruled out the possibility that football would return in a lower classification and with less emphasis.
"Once football is dropped,' he said, "I'm afraid it is dropped forever.'
Eliminating football also will affect UTA's other sports, which no longer will be members of the Southland Conference because the league requires football. All the teams will finish the current season in Southland competition, but will be independents next season.
Nedderman said the school will honor Curtis' contract, which runs through December 1986, and those of his assistant coaches through July 1986. Players on scholarship will receive the full four years of their academic assistance. Under NCAA rules, the players can transfer to any school and be immediately eligible.