Hardesty, Pastilong Speak on Rifle Reinstatement

WVU president David Hardesty, Athletic Director Ed Pastilong and Division of Student Affairs representative Ron Justice took part in a question and answer session regarding the reinstatement of the WVU Rifle program.

"There are lessons for all of us to learn," Hardesty noted in an opening statement, where he reiterated some comments from the press release announcing the reinstatement of the WVU Rifle program. "Rifle was originally cut because of our need to raise tuition rates due to the $22.5 million budget reduction in state appropriations last year. When we raise tuition rates, costs to the athletic department also rise. The athletic department made the decision to cut programs in good faith, and I endorsed that decision."

Hardesty further explained that the state has cut another $7.5 million dollars from the University's appropriation this year, and that will result in another round of tuition increases as well as rising costs for the athletic department.

"These budget cuts will continue to hurt staffing and programs," Hardesty noted. "We did get a $100,000 line item appropriation from the legislature for rifle. But, we lost $7 million in University funding this year, and $30 million overall the last two years. The anticipated tuition increases for next year will cost the athletic department $400,000 next year."

Despite the small appropriation not nearly making up for cuts in other areas, Hardesty said that the support for the rifle program caused WVU to reconsider the decision to drop the rifle team from varsity status.

"The aftermath of this decision has cost us dearly. A few of our students were caught up in this controversy. I want to emphasize that the decisions made had nothing to do with their indivudual worth or their contributions to the university. However, the outpouring of support from many sources, including the legislature, led us to reconsider. Hopefully, that support will continue, both from the legislature and from private support that will have to happen for rifle to continue."

Asked if the last statement meant that the team was subject to being dropped again if sufficient fundraising was not successful, Pastilong said "the plans are to make it permanent", but also added that WVU is counting on the both the rifle club, which will continue as a separate entity, and private donors to continue to support the program. Hardesty, in the release, said that "the future of the rifle team will be dependent on continued state support and pending private support".

How much will it cost to reinstate the program and fund it each year? No firm numbers have been put together yet, and no budget has been set for the team, which will be reconstituted On July 1. At one point, the figure of a $3.2 million dollar endowment was floated by the school as being necessary to bring the program back. Pastilong and Hardesty both skirted questions about the amount of money needed to fund the program, but again emphasized that outside consituencies have pledged to raise private monies, and that the school was depending on that, as well as on the support of the Legislature beyond this year, to fund the program.

Justice, who oversees all clubs and club sports at WVU, said that the Rifle Club's goal was to raise $200,000 this year.

The program will get 3.6 scholarships, but a deicision has not yet been made on whether or not to fund those at the in-state or out-of-state tuition rate. Head coach Marsha Beasley will return to coach the program, but will have a reduction in duties and hours, which was done at her request.

Hardesty also commented on the difficulty of the decision to drop rifle, and on the unique circumstances that combined to bring it back.

"I live in a world of ambiguity and make difficult decisions on a daily basis. This was one of them," Hardesty said of the original call to elimiate sports. "We can't do this every time we make a decision, but it has become clear that this is a priority for the state. There may be other occasions where we do this, but I think it will be rare. It could be a dangerous precedent, but I think there is something unique about rifle, especially in the state of West Virginia."

While Pastilong said that no other sports would be cut to make room for rifle's return, he was again vague on the effect the sport's return would have on the Athletic Department's budget. As noted earlier, anticipated tuition increases will gobble up $400,000 additional dollars from the department's budget next year, which is four times the amount of the Legislature's appropriation to rifle. Pastilong did reiterate that the primary reason for the initial dropping of the sports was budget concerns, and not Title IX, as had been speculated in some media reports.

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