STOCKTON — The sad news was delivered to the players and coaches by University of the Pacific’s athletic director at a meeting Monday morning.

The Pacific field hockey program, part of the university for more than 40 years, will be discontinued.

Faced having to make deep cuts to the school’s athletic department budget, the decision was made to eliminate the sport, which had been very successful on the field in recent years and has won at least a share of the league title in each of the past four seasons.

Athletic Director Janet Lucas said scholarships would be honored for those who wish to stay and graduate from Pacific, and staff would assist players who wanted to try to play at another school.

The members of the field hockey team were stunned by the news, according to Lindsie Rogers, a sophomore midfielder from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and one of nine players on the current team scheduled to return for a season which will not occur.

“We were aware that budgets cuts would be made, but not to the extent that a whole team would be fully cut,” Rogers said. “It’s very hard for whole team. It’s so sad and disheartening that no other decision could be made. And it’s frustrating that not knowing in advance, in case there was anything that we could do.”

The program officially ends on June 30, 2019. Field hockey head coach Andy Smith said he was aware the move was a possibility but wasn’t certain it would happen.

“This has been an ongoing discussion at Pacific for a year. I’m not surprised that the university reached the final decision that they did,” said Smith, who coached the team for six seasons.

“I said in locker room this morning that we’ll be fine. The world didn’t end. It’s the elimination of a very successful field hockey program, and we should be very proud.”

The Pacific athletic department was $4 million over budget in 2017. Lucas, who was hired to replace Ted Leland in May, said the current base budget had to be trimmed by 12 percent. She said the discontinuation of the field hockey program took care of about “98 percent” of the necessary cuts, about $1 million. Field hockey averaged eight-and-a-half scholarships per year.

Field hockey also had a “different geographical pattern” according to Lucas, and was not a part of the West Coast Conference, which hosts most of the school’s sports programs. The field hockey team played in the Western Division of the American East Conference with Stanford, California and UC Davis. The AEC announced recently it would be eliminating the Western Conference after the 2019 season.

Lucas said all those factors weighed into the decision.

“In doing the review and detail analysis, we tried multiple ways to achieve the budget goals,” Lucas said. “This was an extremely difficult decision. This was a program which proudly represented this university, and we want to support the student-athletes through this difficult time of change.”

Pacific president Pamela A. Eibeck said in a statement: “This is a difficult day for the Pacific community and we wish there were another option to this very hard decision. We’re very proud of these student-athletes’ accomplishments and their commitment to pursue excellence. They are outstanding ambassadors and representatives of the best of Pacific.”

Lucas said there are “no plans whatsoever to discontinue any other sports programs.” The school has 11 women’s sports and seven men’s programs, and she said Pacific continues to be compliant with Title IX, the federal civil rights law which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Rogers and her teammates now face a decision — continue their education at Pacific without playing their sport, or move on to another school that offers field hockey. She said it’s too soon to make a decision and is holding out just a little hope the Pacific field hockey team can pull off a miracle finish.

“Some of the players are waiting to see, contacting people we know in the NCAA and such,” Rogers said. “We want to see if there’s anything that we can do to prevent this or change the opinion of the administration.”

 

Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8282 or slinesburgh@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter@ScottLinesburgh.