November 10, 2009
Catawba Field Hockey Program Discontinued
SALISBURY, NC -- Catawba College announced Monday, Nov. 9, that it has terminated its women’s field hockey program, effective immediately. The announcement was made by Dr. Craig Turner, College President. Turner, along with Catawba’s Vice President for Athletics Tom Childress and Athletics Director Dennis Davidson met with the current squad on Monday evening. They informed the student athletes that their athletic scholarships would be honored if they chose to remain at Catawba.
Davidson and Childress said that the major factors for the decision are the perennial problems of scheduling and the rising traveling costs. Catawba had just three home field hockey games in 2009 and has had even less in recent years. There are not enough NCAA Division II schools in the South to form a conference and the Lady Indians were forced to play Division I opponents and to travel to Pennsylvania at least twice each season.
“Indeed, it is a sad day when you are faced with losing a program that has had such a rich tradition,” said Davidson. “However, it no longer makes financial sense to maintain the field hockey program. It is not a very rewarding experience for student athletes nor is it good business for Catawba College to have just three or less home games each year.”
Pending NCAA legislation will decrease field hockey schedules across the country by two games, making it even more difficult for Catawba to entice Northern schools to visit Salisbury. In addition, there is a national push for artificial turf, which many field hockey-playing schools already have. Again, schools have used Catawba’s natural grass field as an excuse to not contract a home-and-home schedule.
The cost of a field turf is now over $500,000, another cost-prohibitive issue for Catawba.
Current head coach Adrian Gantt, who also played for Catawba prior to her 1998 graduation, understands more than anyone the frustration of trying to build a schedule.
“As the coach and as a former player, I am sad about this decision, but I understand it completely,” said Gantt. “Considering all of the circumstances, this is the appropriate decision for Catawba College.”
Considered to be Catawba’s oldest women’s sport, field hockey was played in physical education classes and in club style, dating back to the 1930s. The sport became intercollegiate in 1964, under longtime coach Pat Rice Whitley. Coach Whitley quickly built a dynasty among the Southern schools, as her first eight years saw undefeated teams.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the field hockey climate was good. Catawba belonged to the now defunct Deep South Conference. However, Pfeiffer and High Point soon dropped their programs and the other schools in the old conference, Wake Forest, Appalachian State and Davidson, began funding to their true NCAA Division I capabilities.
In addition to the early successes, Coach Nan Whitley’s 1988 squad was 14-1-1 and won the Deep South Conference championship. Another big moment came during Thanksgiving weekend in 1989, hosting the 1,000-participant National Hockey Festival at Frock Fields.
The 2009 finished 5-9, the program’s 15th consecutive losing season.
Catawba has 17 other sports, 14 of which are members of the South Atlantic Conference. The men’s and women’s swim teams are members of the Blue Grass Mountain Conference and the men’s lacrosse team is in the Deep South Conference.