Morehouse College announced that the school is choosing its students’ health over dollars. The school is shutting down all fall sports.
The Maroon Tigers compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference under the NCAA’s Division II and were scheduled to open its football season against Edward Water College on Sept. 5.
“Like all of the decisions we’ve made related to COVID-19, this was a difficult one but was made with the health and well-being of our students and community in mind,” Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said on Friday. “It follows my intention to maintain a safe campus in hopes that our students will be able to return in August. Our Maroon Tiger teams travel to other NCAA institutions and cannot compete without breaking from social distancing guidelines still maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sporting events also invite individuals to our campus who will not be subject to the testing and monitoring that we plan to implement for our students, faculty, and staff.”
The school will still honor athletic scholarships for fall sports.
The Historically Black College in Atlanta announced in May that the school would have a round of furloughs, pay cuts, and job terminations that would affect the entire campus. The president announced he would be taking a 25 percent pay cut. Between June 1 to Dec. 31, 2021, there are 194 full-time employees facing pay reductions. Faculty earning more than $55,000 per year will see their salary cut in the ballpark of 10 to 15 percent. The measures are expected to save the university $3.4M.
The school is reeling from a budget shortfall in September 2019 and with the loss of sports in the fall it presents an interesting set up for the college monetarily. Netflix co-founders Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, announced a three-way 120 million donation to Morehouse, Spelman, United Negro College Fund donation this month.
“This is a pivotal moment for all of higher education,” Thomas said in May when the changes were announced. “Those who can adapt to this new normal will thrive, while those who continue to look backward will struggle to survive. Since even before the Great Recession, the business model of most higher education institutions has been under pressure by changing student demographics, rising costs and the many choices technology has provided students on how to learn.”
On the Division III level, Bowdoin College has also canceled all of its fall sports including football. For the first time in 30 years the Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State and Tennessee State was canceled. Three other HBCU classic games for the fall 2020 season have also been canceled due to COVID-19 precautions.
After receiving a $13 million donation from Oprah Winfrey in October, Morehouse is likely in a better financial situation than many other HBCUs and likely the President’s announcement is rooted in public health precautions for Morehouse’s campus. Morehouse is not a school that brings in a ton of revenue from football — and most certainly won’t without fans this year — so the decision makes sense specifically now during the summer months to just scrap sports in the fall all together.