Stillman College will be dropping all athletics teams except for men’s and women’s basketball at the end of the 2015-2016 season, the school announced today.
Stillman, a private HBCU affiliated with the Presbyterian church and located in Tuscaloosa, Ala., will leave the NCAA and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at the end of the season and become a member of the NAIA’s Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference next season.
Stillman sports information director Joel Worthington told the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News on Tuesday, that school president Peter Millet and the school’s board of directors “are currently evaluating all programs within the institution, athletic as well as academic, to ensure the primary mission of the school is being followed. That mission is to ‘foster academic excellence and to provide high quality educational opportunities for diverse populations with disparate levels of academic preparation.’”
The college was forced to drop non-conference games in spring sports last season as result of financial problems. The ongoing issues spread into football season, causing concerns within the program.
“We’ve been hearing they’re going to cut football,” defensive tackle Manny Cromuel told the Tuscaloosa News on Tuesday. “That’s what the big rumor is, that football’s gone and a lot of the other sports are going. That’s because Stillman’s in debt, but football brings in money and a lot of students come for that.”
The financial issues plaguing Stillman contributed to the Tigers’ delayed start to fall practice. Delayed equipment resulted in practice starting 10 days prior to Stillman’s 52-9 loss at West Alabama on Sept. 5.
“As students, it’s terrible the way they’re treating us,” Cromuel said. “We didn’t have a trainer all year, our coaches had to claw and fight for us to put a season together. We came back later than everybody else (on other teams), so there’s the feeling that they knew they were going to do this.”
Per NCAA precedent, student-athletes whose teams were discontinued will be able to transfer to another institution without losing eligibility.
Stillman is the second SIAC program to drop football in as many seasons; Paine College dropped football at the end of the 2014 season after a one-year revival. With Stillman’s departure, the SIAC will be down to 10 football playings schools.
Stillman revived their program in 1999 as a Division III program before transitioning to D2 in 2003 and joining the SIAC in 2005.
The school has been operating without a full-time athletic director following Paul Bryant’s departure to become the athletic director at South Carolina State. Women’s basketball coach C.C. Moore has served as the interim athletic director since August 2014.
Athletics hasn’t been the only area that has been impacted by the school’s financial concerns. The Birmingham (Ala.) Times reported the school imposed furlough days in April 2014 around the same time students complained about unsanitary dorm conditions.
More information will be posted as it becomes available…