These are hard times for soccer in the town they call Soccer Town USA.
Four years after soccer supporters and alumni staved off an attempt to eliminate Division I men's soccer at Hartwick, one of college soccer's most storied men's programs, trustees at the Oneonta, N.Y., school will meet on Saturday to consider a new plan to eliminate athletic scholarships and switch men's soccer and nationally ranked women's water polo to Division III in 2009.
This time, the move is considered a fait accompli.
After a plan in January 2004 was approved by trustees, an effort to reinstate the Division I programs was successful after Re-Ignite the Wick fundraising efforts raised about $2 million.
Hartwick is positioning the decision to drop the two Division I programs as a cost-cutting measure. The athletic scholarships for men's soccer and women's water polo cost about $550,000 a year.
Hartwick won the NCAA Division I men's soccer title in 1977 and reached the final four on seven occasions. It has competed in Division I in only men's soccer and women's water polo. All other sports play at the Division III level.
Jim Lennox, who coached Hartwick to the 1977 national title, told the Oneonta Star that the move was based on Hartwick's inability to compete at the national level.
"The demographics of Division I soccer have changed," Lennox continued. "It's now geared toward the major conferences. There's no way we are going to do what we did in the 1970s and 1980s. That will never be recaptured. Division I men's soccer has advanced and because of that progress and growth of the game, the major conferences have taken to soccer and the schools in the mid- to lower-conferences have been left behind."
The comes two years after Oneonta State downgraded its men's soccer program from Division I to Division III.