Friday, April 14, 2017

Savannah State Considers Drop From FCS/Division I to Division II Athletics, Say Reports

(Photo from Savannah State athletics website)
The mounting costs of running a Division I/Football Championship Series athletic program may have become too much for Savannah State University.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school may drop down to Division II athletics in all sports in 2019, according to the Savannah Morning News.  Savannah State became a Division I/FCS member of the MEAC in 2006 after participating in Division II athletics in all sports prior to that.

The paper reported April 12 that SSU Athletic Director Sterling Steward told the school's athletes in a meeting on Wednesday night that it would be a financial move, according to SSU baseball player Turner Davis.

Savannah's ABC affliliate, WJCL-22, quoted sources who said unless there was an influx of finances, the move would happen.

ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT is waiting for responses to questions emailed to Savannah State athletics media relations officials Friday afternoon.

2016 was a year that Savannah State's football program, which competes in the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA), seemed to finally turning the corner after being one the MEAC's annual doormats since beginning conference play.  For the first time as a MEAC member, the Tigers won three conference games during the season, finishing 3-6 overall, 3-4 in MEAC play.  One of their wins came over 2015 MEAC co-champions, Bethune-Cookman.

The men's and women's basketball program, along with the other SSU athletic programs, compete on the Division I level. The men's hoops team finished 10-6 in MEAC play this season, 13-16 overall. The women's basketball team was 8-8 in conference play, 12-19 overall.  Their baseball and softball teams have had dismal seasons as the women's softball team is 0-27 while the men's baseball team is 10-24 overall, 1-11 in the MEAC.  The women's tennis team lost all 21 matches this season.

According to the school's website, Steward, in his sixth year at SSU, oversees a department that has 16 sports and a $5.1 million budget.  The website also said the football program has brought in $5 million through guarantee football games, in which they've played FBS (formerly Division I) football schools such as Georgia Southern, Colorado State, Akron and Southern Mississippi over the past four years - teams they've been soundly beaten by.