Universities facing tough financial decisions as four regional schools cut football

Northern State university's Brayden McNeary (19) grabs University of Minnesota-Crookston's Jalin Scott (5) as the Wolves' Noah MacPherson (47) closes in to help out on defense during a 2018 game at Swisher Field. (John Davis / Aberdeen American News)

The University of Minnesota-Crookston is just one of four regional universities to announce the end of their football programs in recent months.

UMC and St. Cloud State announced Tuesday, Dec. 10, that the 2019 football seasons would be their last. The universities join Northland Community & Technical College and Dakota College at Bottineau, who announced last month they’d be ending their football programs as well.

Both UMC and St. Cloud pointed to a “challenging fiscal environment” facing higher education today as reasons why the programs were being ended.

While she said she couldn’t speak for the other schools, UMC Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause said each college likely has a different reason for shutting down their football programs.

“Everybody in athletics is always concerned about the welfare and the well-being of our students,” she said. “Going forward, we just couldn't see that we were going to be able to really provide that student experience going forward.”


Holz-Clause said the university will be making additional investments into its other sports. The university will be determining what those kinds of investments will look like as time goes forward, she said.

“At this stage, we're right in the process now of determining what those kinds of reinvestments can be for those other sports to strengthen them,” Holz-Clause told the Herald.

Holz-Clause added the school looked at its long-term scenarios and recognized the program wasn’t as competitive as the university had hoped it would be. The Golden Eagles did not win a game in 2019 and were 2-64 in the past six years. Additionally, she said the school determined it didn’t have the finances to invest in scholarships for the program, thus the reason for ending the program.

The university will be honoring all scholarships for its football students, as long as they maintain academic eligibility.

UMC and St. Cloud are part of the 16-team Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, a league within NCAA Division II.

The NSIC had it written in its bylaws that institutions have to field a football team to be a member of the conference. The NSIC approved a change in its bylaws last week that football is no longer a requirement.

There are 69 members on UMC’s roster, Holz-Clause said. The NSIC will waive its inter-conference transfer restrictions, giving students an opportunity to transfer to any school in the conference without sitting out a year.

Holz-Clause said she had had conversations about moving down to Division III or the NAIA division, but, ultimately, decided against that change. The previous two chancellors also had conversations with individuals in those divisions about what it would mean for the school to drop down.


“Based on what we see and know, we think that Division II athletics is very important to our students,” she said. “It’s a reason they come (to UMC) because they want to play Division II athletics. So, we made the decision once the bylaw changes were made that we were competitive in other sports and that this was the best strategy for us.”

Bulldogs linebacker Bryce Harder tackles Crookston quarterback Jalin Scott. (Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune)

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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