After this spring, baseball will no longer be played at North Carolina Central University.
The historically Black university in Durham announced Thursday that it was discontinuing the sport after its 2021 season.
In a statement, NC Central said that its current funding model for athletics "is not sustainable" and the decision to end its sponsorship of baseball is "an effort to improve" its fiscal stability.
The budgetary impact of COVID-19 was also a factor, the university said. NC Central's athletics department had cut its overall operational costs by 30% since March 2020, including implementing department-wide furloughs.
"This is a challenging day for our baseball student-athletes, coaches and the NCCU Athletics program, and certainly one of the most disappointing days in my career," NC Central Athletic Director Dr. Ingrid Wicker McCree said in a statement. "There is never the 'right time' to make an announcement such as this. However, this decision was made after a rigorous internal and external review of our long-term financial model to improve the overall sustainability of our athletics program."
Without baseball, NC Central will still sponsor 14 varsity sports, the minimum required for Division I NCAA membership and sponsorship from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
In deciding which sport it would cut to save costs, a task force was established in the fall of 2020 to review a 2015 NC Central sports portfolio report. The task force assessed the report and determined the sustainability of each program. The task force considered squad size, number of competitions, cost of facility rental and game officials and overall operational expenses in determining which men's sport to discontinue. NC Central couldn't discontinue a women’s sport because they're already at the NCAA's minimum required number of sports offered for women, seven.
The university will honor all existing and new scholarships for baseball student-athletes who wish to continue studying at NC Central for the 2021-22 academic year. If an athlete decides to transfer, they will be immediately eligible for competition elsewhere.
This is not the first time baseball has come and gone at NC Central. The sport was dropped by the school in 1975, then brought back after a 32-year hiatus in 2007. Since then, the Eagles have played their games at the Durham Athletic Park. Since 2015, the program has produced six players that went on to sign with clubs in Major League Baseball, including two-time MEAC Player of the Year Corey Joyce.
NC Central's 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic. The Eagles posted a 21-28 record in 2019 under head coach Jim Koerner. Their 2021 season is set to begin on Feb. 19 at home against Army.