GILLETE, Wyo. (BVM) — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on collegiate athletic programs across the country, and two of Wyoming’s junior colleges have felt the effects in a big way.
On June 25, Sheridan College and Gillette College, which are sister schools in the Northern Wyoming Community College District, announced that they were cutting their entire Division I athletic programs, effective immediately. The cost-cutting move was prompted by the financial emergency declared by the board of trustees on June 18, which is due to the pandemic and imminent cuts to funding from the State of Wyoming.
“This decision was far from easy and definitely not something we wanted to take away from our student-athletes,” NWCCD President Dr. Walter Tribley said in a press release. “However, we simply cannot maintain a vision that includes full-time coaches, full-ride athletic scholarships coming from our general fund, and expensive recruitment and travel.”
The schools’ rodeo teams will continue, but will have their budgets reduced substantially. According to the release, officials hope to eventually bring back additional athletic opportunities at the NJCAA Division III level. The college district stated that cutting the athletic programs at both schools would save approximately $2.8 million of the schools’ $3.96 million total reduction, which also includes cuts to the culinary art and hospitality management programs and reductions to campus police and district administration. The reductions include 16 layoffs and another seven unfilled positions will be eliminated.
Both schools competed in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, and Sheridan also competed in volleyball. Sheridan and Gillette were members of the Region IX athletic conference with six other Wyoming JUCOs: Casper College, Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Northwest College in Powell, Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington.
Coaches like Casper head men’s basketball head coach Shaun Gutting voiced their support for the schools via social media when the news broke on June 25.
“Very saddened to hear the news about the programs at Gillette and Sheridan today,” Gutting said in a Twitter post. “An unfair blow to so many great coaches and athletes. I will cherish the rivalry between our schools. Some of the best games and fan support I have seen across the board.”
The Gillette men’s and women’s basketball teams also took to Twitter to give thanks for all the support they’ve received. The Gillete women finished last season ranked No. 21 in the nation. The men claimed back-to-back Region IX titles in 2016 and 2017.
Today the decision was made to cut funding for all athletics at Gillette College. We’d like to thank the community for all of their support over the last 11 years. Shout out to @CoachShawnNeary for leading this program to a record of 268-90 (.750). One last time… #GoHorns
— Gillette College MBB (@GCPronghornsMBB) June 25, 2020