More than a hundred student-athletes at Gillette College and Sheridan College found late last week that the schools, which comprise the Northern Wyoming Community College District, were eliminating their athletic programs due to a fiscal emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and state revenue losses.
There was no warning that cuts were coming. Athletes, coaches, trainers, boosters and fans from both schools were in the dark until the college administrators made it official.
In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, the NWCCD said cutting most of the athletic programs at both schools was part of a larger, nearly $4 million reduction prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and imminent cuts from the state of Wyoming, which is facing a dramatic decline in revenue.
Eliminating the sports programs — four at Gillette College and five at Sheridan College — is expected to save the district $2.8 million. Officials said the cost of the programs compared with the revenue they generate made them unsustainable amid a financial crisis.
Thursday’s decision not only brought an end to most of the two school’s athletic programs — the rodeo programs were saved, albeit with smaller budgets — it reverberated throughout the state.
University of Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman told the Star-Tribune earlier this month that even though UW was continuing to make reductions because of the coronavirus pandemic, he didn’t expect the university to have to cut any sports programs.
That appears to be the case for the state’s other junior colleges — Casper College, Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Northwest College in Powell, Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne and Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs.
Lady Devils standout ponders her future
Recently-graduated Lady Devil Taryn Wagstaff signed her letter of intent last month to continue her soccer career at Sheridan College. The three-sport standout said that, much like her fellow recruits, the news came as a complete surprise.
“I received an email from the president of NWCCD and read it while I was at lunch,” she explained. “I was frustrated and disappointed because I was excited to play.”
Denied her senior season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wagstaff was excited to have the opportunity to continue on with the sport she loves, signing to play for first-year head coach Blake Ordell at Sheridan. With that option now off the table, Wagstaff said she’s unsure of her plans moving forward. Sheridan College has said it will honor the scholarships of this year’s recruits, though she may not be ready to end her athletic career just yet.
“Not having a senior season, and getting news that I wouldn’t get to play at Sheridan, too, was super-disappointing,” she said. “I heard a rumor earlier that day but I chose not to believe it until I had official news. I was completely surprised, as I went to visit the college on Monday and met my coach, and he was getting ready for the season.”
Uinta County Herald Sports Editor Don Cogger contributed to this report.