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Lindenwood makes widespread athletics cuts less than two years after going Division I

The Lindenwood University Field Hockey team reacts after scoring on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, during a matchup against the St. Louis University Billikens in Midtown.
Audrey Woods
The Lindenwood University field hockey team reacts after scoring in September during a matchup against the St. Louis University Billikens in Midtown. The team is one of 10 program eliminations after Lindenwood went Division I and joined the Ohio Valley Conference.

Lindenwood University in St. Charles will eliminate 10 sports programs and nine staff positions.

Students received this information in an email on Dec. 1. The decision was made to better align athletics with peer institutions, according to a statement by the university.

Nine of the 10 teams being cut are spring sports and will complete their final seasons in spring 2024. Those sports are men’s tennis, lacrosse, indoor and outdoor track and field, and wrestling, along with men’s and women’s cycling, women’s gymnastics and women’s swimming and diving.

Women’s field hockey, a fall sport, ended the day of the announcement. Players said teammates and coaches were blindsided by the announcement. Audrey Woods, a freshman, said she’s finished playing collegiate field hockey because of the school’s decision. They’d taken team pictures just a day before the assembly where student-athletes learned of the cuts.

“Our coaches told us they didn't know what it [the assembly] was about,” said Woods. “But then over the next 24 hours, we started talking with other teams, and they started to get scared, and athletic trainers, advisers and coaches had no idea what it was about. And so the rumor was just kind of that they were cutting teams, but a lot of people didn't think it was going to happen, because there were teams like gymnastics and lacrosse who were in it.”

Several newly cut teams were successful in their sport, as well as bringing in recruits. In April, the Lindenwood gymnastics team won the USA Gymnastics Women's Collegiate National Championship. In 2022, Lindenwood became an NCAA Division I school. It’s since competed in the Ohio Valley Conference — a conference that Lindenwood said no longer aligns with the number of sports offered.

"As an athletics director, this is not a decision you ever want to have to make. Unfortunately, it is critical for the long-term sustainability of the department," said Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Jason Coomer in a statement on the university’s website. "I understand there will be considerable hurt felt by the ten teams impacted as well as by our staff and coaches.”

Coomer made the announcement to 284 students just before it was released to the public. The announcement took minutes, and Woods said she and others were upset with the manner the cuts were explained.

“Part of the blow was that it wasn't even the president of our school who gave us a speech,” said Woods. “He read it off a paper, and I think the speech was a grand total of three minutes.”

Teams hoped to work with the university to amend this decision.

“We acknowledge Lindenwood University’s decision to discontinue the Men’s Wrestling team at the conclusion of this season. We plan to engage with their administration to explore avenues for reconsideration and a potential reversal of this choice,” wrote Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Administration.

The Lindenwood administration said the decision won’t be reversed. In a statement, officials wrote that donor support would not impact the final decision. The announcement came weeks after signing day for athletes, during finals. Recruits and active players will have scholarships honored, but some are looking to transfer. Nine filled staff positions were eliminated. While the university has not released specifics, Woods said her coaches turned in their keys and laptops by the end of the day of the announcement.

"While I cannot erase that hurt, I will continue to do everything possible to give our impacted teams and coaches the best experience possible for the remainder of their respective seasons," Coomer said. "Our staff will also be committed to assisting impacted student-athletes who are looking at the options they have available, including remaining at Lindenwood on their scholarships, or entering the transfer portal to find a new opportunity to continue their academic and athletic careers."

Lauren Brennecke is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio and a recent graduate of Webster University.