Murray State University will no longer sponsor its men’s tennis program, as part of the school’s response to state budget cuts.
The decision is effective immediately. In a news release, Murray State athletics director Allen Ward said the school will offer “appropriate services and support” to the students affected. This past season’s roster included seven players. It's currently unclear if the program will continue on as a club sport. Ward declined a phone interview with WKMS Monday afternoon.
The program has been around since 1954 and has won 19 Ohio Valley Conference championships, including 10 in a row in the 1980s under former coach Bennie Purcell, who died earlier this year.
"I regret the timing of this decision considering what an emotional time it’s been for Mel and the Racer family," Ward said, in the news release. "But, the university’s hands are tied, our options limited, and our obligations are steep.”
Current coach Mel Purcell, Bennie’s son, will retain a job at the school. Mel has coached the team for almost two decades.
Update: Mel Purcell released a statement in reaction the university's decision.
“It’s sad for men’s tennis because of the history and tradition at Murray State. I would’ve liked to have had the chance to win one more championship for personal reasons. I hate that this is happening to our student-athletes and I will help them find other places to play. I’m looking forward to the new challenges that are ahead and I’m excited about helping out with the women’s team and helping with the development of the athletics department. I’m a Racer and I’ll be here to help out where they need me. Like I said, I’m disappointed but, I’ll still be working with tennis and I think my love for the game will still be there and I’ll always be a Racer. I’m just sad for my team. I thought we had a good enough team to make a run these next few years. But, we’ll move on and win some championships with the women’s team.”
“I truly regret the position the university finds itself as a result of the budgetary reductions from the State,” said MSU president Bob Davies. “A number of programs that have been staples at Murray State are being affected, and unfortunately that includes sports sponsorship. With that being said, MSU men’s tennis will always remain a treasured part of our history and tradition.”
Davies will present a budget to the MSU Board of Regents next month with $6.1 million in total reductions.