Tennis program sent packing

Last week, Portland State Tom Burman, athletic director, announced that both the men’s and women’s tennis programs would be eliminated, the latest casualty of budget cuts.

“While the decision to eliminate sports is difficult, the need to adequately manage our budget through this extremely challenging state budget situation is paramount,” Burman said in a recent press release. “Elimination of a program is the least desirable alternative. But, with our institution’s budget situation, we had to make a fiscally responsible decision.”

The announcement came as a shock to head tennis coach Leslie Lewis and the Viking players, who recently wrapped up their 2003 season by hosting the Big Sky Championships.

Men’s tennis was barely reinstated to Viking athletics just four years ago. The men’s tennis program had been cut years back and then was brought back with new hopes of a different coach. Lewis was hired four years ago to head both the men’s and women’s programs. Four years later, the cut of both programs comes as a complete shock to Lewis and her players.

“This really came out of the blue,” Lewis said. “We all found out (last) Wednesday and we were stunned. For a young program, we were really making forward progress. These players gave a lot of time and effort and commitment to their teams.”

This cut in athletic funding is only following the trend set by Oregon schools in general, wherein numerous extracurricular activities have been falling by the wayside in an attempt to somehow make ends meet. This year, PSU has endured a $15 million budget drop, a problem that prompted a 4.4 percent increase in tuition this school year.

Unfortunately for the students, this means that they are bearing the brunt of these financial woes in some very personal ways. In many cases, it seems that they are paying more, while getting less.

Despite the fact that Portland State has offered to honor pre-existing tennis scholarships through next year, it is likely that many of the players will seek out schools where playing the sport is still an option.

PSU is now home to 14 varsity sports, including football, basketball, volleyball, golf, wrestling, track and field, softball and cross country.