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Duquesne president: Football will improve

| Friday, May 28, 2010

Duquesne President Charles J. Dougherty said back-to-back losing football seasons have been difficult to accept, but the sacrifice of four other varsity sports may help speed the team's recovery.

"We are still getting used to not winning," Dougherty said of 3-8 and 3-7 records in 2008 and '09, the school's first years in the Northeast Conference. "It is a bit jarring to be losing football games, but when we get the right number of scholarships back, we will return to our winning ways."

Dougherty admitted that eliminating men's swimming and golf, baseball and wrestling was painful for students and their families. However, the eventual savings of more than $1 million will help other programs, he said. The process may take as long as four years while the university honors existing scholarships.

The reduction from 20 to 16 sports puts Duquesne more in line with fellow Atlantic 10 schools such Xavier and Dayton (16 each) and St. Bonaventure (14), he said.

"We just had way too many sports," Dougherty said.

Choosing which sports to cut was partially based on performance and facilities, he said. The baseball team was 16-40 this season, and its home field in Green Tree is used on a rental basis and maintained at the school's expense, with players and coaches doing much of the work.

"Baseball, in many ways, has become a Southern sport," he said. "We can send a team to Florida, but if we send them for 10 days (or) two weeks, they're missing class for that long. You hate to come to that conclusion, but I think we're going to see more and more schools that are going to have to cut back where they can't win."

Dougherty emphasized that the decision was not financially driven, a fact supported by the school's 21st consecutive budget surplus.

"(Athletic officials) couldn't do what they wanted to do with the number of sports they were carrying, so (the plan) was to cancel some and redistribute the wealth," he said.

He added that Duquesne eventually will be able to increase the number of football scholarships it can offer from 20 to 30, helping it to compete in the NEC. The conference plans to allow 40 scholarships per school next year.

"We have a plan to increase (scholarships) regularly, and this will allow us to actually accelerate it," he said. "We know we have to expand our commitment to football."

Other issues Dougherty addressed:

• The university is planning to have the men's basketball team play some of its games at Consol Energy Center. Dougherty said opponents could include Xavier, Dayton, Pitt and West Virginia. Duquesne will have its own locker room there, he said.

• Plans to save the swimming program were "seriously considered," but Dougherty didn't believe they were realistic. A group of parents and graduates wanted to raise money through raffles in an attempt to get 1 million people to donate $5 each. "We never raised a $5 million endowment for one single purpose that way ever before, so it was not a plausible idea," he said.

• Improvements to Palumbo Center include a new scoreboard and chairbacks on both sides of the lower bowls. Estimated cost of the project: $1.8 million.

• The university is pleased with its basketball membership in the A-10, but Dougherty wouldn't protest if Duquesne were mentioned in possible conference shuffling. "Obviously, we have a major media market here, we have Consol Energy (Center) right next door to us, a major new facility to play games," he said. "We believe if there is a reshuffling, we have the right to be at the table and be part of the conversation."

Additional Information:

Cashing in

The total athletic revenues at five Division I schools in the area, with monetary figures from the 2008-09 school year:

School, number of sports, revenue in millions

Penn State , 25, $95.9

West Virginia , 17, $55.6

Pitt , 19, $45.8

Duquesne , 20*, $12.9

Robert Morris , 19, $11.4

* Duquesne has cut men's swimming and golf, baseball and wrestling to reduce its number to 16.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

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