Rifle Reinstated

An outpouring of public and private support for West Virginia University's rifle program, including a $100,000 commitment from the West Virginia Legislature, will allow the team to return to NCAA status, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. announced Thursday (March 25).

"West Virginia University officials have made a decision to reinstate the rifle team as an NCAA sport as of July 1, 2004," Hardesty said, "and to continue the newly formed rifle club."

The team will remain under the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics; the rifle club will remain a student organization within Student Affairs.

Hardesty noted that the University made a "painful and difficult decision" last spring to eliminate rifle and four other varsity sports. But he stressed that the decision was based on the constraints of the dwindling budgets and support.

"The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the time had little choice and made an appropriate, good-faith decision," he said.

Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong added, "The financial support provided from the state budget will allow us to reinstate the rifle team as an NCAA varsity sport. Our charge is to field competitive athletic teams while remaining self-sufficient. Increased operating costs, including increases in tuition, forced us to make the difficult decision that many institutions have had to make in reducing the number of sponsored sports. This legislative funding will provide an immediate operating budget for rifle, and potential fund-raising efforts by the rifle club and other supporters may allow us to increase the sport's funding in the future."

Hardesty stressed that over the past few years, the loss of more than $30 million, due to a combination of state budget cuts to WVU and additional state insurance costs, has forced the University to make many difficult fiscal decisions, "sometimes eliminating programs or activities that people across the state value dearly."

The decision to eliminate rifle, he added, energized a support base across the state - from the halls of the state Capitol to citizens on the street.

"The outpouring of public and private support we've received on this issue has been overwhelming," he added. "Without the financial backing the team has received, the University just could not justify reinstatement with funding from the institution's general budget."

Hardesty stressed that the University is committed to maintaining the University's 16 current NCAA sports, in addition to rifle: baseball, men's basketball, women's basketball, women's cross country, football, women's gymnastics, women's rowing, women's indoor track, women's outdoor track, women's soccer, men's soccer, men's swimming, women's swimming, women's tennis, volleyball and wrestling.

Hardesty said the future of the rifle team will be dependent on continued state support and pending private support. He said that the university faces ongoing budget problems that will impact all of its operations. In addition to the $30 million WVU has lost in the past several years, the institution's budget will be cut another $7 million (including main and HSC campuses) in the coming fiscal year.

"We face many difficult decisions in the future," he added, "and we need the support of the Legislature and the University's many alumni and friends."

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