NEW YORK — St. Francis College, one of the smallest NCAA Division I schools, announced Monday that its board of trustees has approved a plan to eliminate its athletic program at the end of the spring semester.
St. Francis sponsors 21 NCAA teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, and has been a member of the Northeast Conference for more than four decades.
The move comes as part of larger restructuring of the private Catholic school located in Brooklyn. Enrollment at the school is about 2,300 undergraduate students.
“There are challenges facing higher education institutions, particularly smaller liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, from which SFC is not immune,” the school said in a new release. “Among these challenges are increased operating expenses, flattening revenue streams, and plateauing enrollment due in part to a shrinking pool of high school graduates in the aftermath of the pandemic.”
Athletic director Irma Garcia said in a statement she was “heartbroken” by the decision and the school will honor all current academic and athletic scholarships for athletes that choose to continue their education at St. Francis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible impact on St. Francis College, and as a result, Terrier Athletics,” Garcia said. “Our department has always been committed to providing an opportunity to compete at the Division I level, dating back to starting the oldest men’s basketball program in New York City to the introduction of men’s volleyball and women’s soccer in 2019.”
The Northeast Conference is also home to Fairleigh Dickinson, the small school located in Teaneck, New Jersey, that pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA men’s basketball tournament history this past weekend.
FDU became just the second team seeded 16th in the field to defeat a No. 1 seed when the Knights beat Purdue last Friday.
FDU lost to FAU on Sunday in the second round of the tournament.
“Coming off a week that has served as a rallying cry for the entire Northeast Conference, today is a bittersweet day,” NEC commissioner Noreen Morris said in a statement. “As a charter member of the NEC, St. Francis College is tightly woven into the very fabric of this conference. It saddens us to lose them as an integral member of the NEC community.”
St. Francis also announced that its board had granted school president Miguel Martinez-Saenz a request for a personal leave and appointed Chief Operating Officer Tim Cecere as acting president, effective immediately.