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Plum grad among those assessing RMU athletics decision

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Robert Morris University's athletic department last week announced that it is eliminating seven Division I sports as part of an overall five-year strategic plan, and numerous local athletes will be affected by the changes.

One of those affected is Plum 2013 graduate Matt Dombrowski, a freshman at RMU and a member of the men's indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

Those squads join men's cross country and tennis and women's field hockey, golf and tennis to be cut at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

Dombrowski said he found out from a teammate shortly before seeing an official announcement via email sent to the entire RMU student body.

“I didn't know what to think because it sounded so unbelievable,” Dombrowski said Sunday evening.

“It was completely unexpected for everyone, and that put a lot of people in a tough spot.”

In a press release issued by the university shortly after the decision was made, the athletic department said 80 student-athletes are affected by this decision.

RMU said it will honor all scholarships currently being received by the impacted athletes and will assist those who wish to transfer.

Under NCAA rules, student-athletes who transfer from schools that have eliminated their sport do not have to sit out a season at their new school.

Dombrowski, who medaled at WPIALs and competed at states as a senior last spring, said he will sit down and weigh all the pros and cons of remaining at Robert Morris versus continuing track and field and his education at another college or university.

He also will decide whether or not to compete in the indoor or outdoor seasons or take a redshirt, which would leave him the maximum four years of eligibility should he decide to transfer.

The indoor season has begun, but Dombrowski has yet to compete in any meets.

“I want to help the teams in their last year, but I also have to think about what's best for me,” Dombrowski said.

“There are a lot of seniors on the team, and we have a good chance to take the NEC title. I would feel bad if we just miss it, and I thought I could have had a chance to contribute in any way. It would be cool to go out with a conference title.”

The announcement also was made in the midst of finals that will complete the fall semester.

“It's all we've been talking about,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski said he will stay at Robert Morris for the rest of the academic year, regardless of what happens when the spring semester comes to an end in early May.

He said he is comfortable with the university, and his spring classes already are scheduled.

A petition to keep the men's track and field team, Dombrowski said, already had more than 1,000 signatures in a couple of days through Saturday.

“It picked up a lot of steam quickly,” Dombrowski said.

He said he couldn't speak on any petitions started by the other sports set for the chopping block.

Dr. Craig Coleman, RMU Director of Athletics, addressed the decision.

“Clearly, this is the most difficult decision I've faced as athletic director and one of the hardest we've had to make as a university. I understand that our student-athletes are very upset by this news, and we apologize for the distress this has caused,” he said.

“Nonetheless, this is the right decision to ensure that the university's present growth remains sustainable and that our student-athletes enjoy an excellent experience at RMU.”

According to the plan, the savings generated by eliminating the seven sports will fund improvements for the remaining Division I teams, including additional scholarships, facility upgrades, and increased travel and recruiting budgets.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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