FAYETTE — Like any college athletics director, Rick Hartzell has his share of concerns and challenges at Upper Iowa University.
One thing Hartzell isn’t worried about is losing his football program.
Earlier this week, Northern Sun Conference members St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Crookston announced the end of their NCAA Division II football programs.
“Football is solid here,” Hartzell said Thursday. “It’s important here. Saturday football here is really cool. We have a good tailgate, we have good crowds. We have 125 guys in football and this place needs them.
“We’re good. We balance the books. We’re in the black and we bring the budget in on the number.”
Minnesota-Crookston chancellor Mary Holz-Clause said her university’s decision to eliminate football was due to inadequate funding. At St. Cloud State, it’s the product of a $5.1 million budget deficit and a Title IX court order to balance opportunities and benefits for male and female students.
The timing of the decisions coincides with a change in Northern Sun Conference by-laws that previously required league members to sponsor football.
“Augustana plans to go Division I and the league didn’t want to lose them so a rule was put in where you don’t have to play football anymore to be a member,” noted Hartzell. “You still have to have a certain number of men’s and women’s championship sports, but you don’t have to play football.
“Now we can keep those teams in the league.”
Hartzell does have concerns about the Peacocks’ performance on the gridiron in recent seasons. To that end, Tom Shea has stepped aside as head coach and Hartzell hopes to name a new leader for the program in the next few days.
Shea recently completed his 11th season as head coach. His teams posted winning records in four of the last seven years and went 42-79 overall, including a 2-9 mark during the 2019 campaign.
Shea will remain on staff in a new role next season.
“Tom will move into more of an advisory role, although he may still help with the coaching,” said Hartzell.
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