November 23, 2009
Following an extensive review process, Northeastern University has elected to discontinue its intercollegiate football program. The decision is consistent with the university’s strategic approach to prioritize programs and invest in signature strengths.
“Our goal for athletics is to achieve sustainable excellence in all areas,” said Athletic Director Peter Roby, who made the initial recommendation, which received the strong support of the university administration, the president, and the Board of Trustees. In an open letter to the Northeastern community, Roby continued, “We do not define success merely through wins and losses. Instead, we recognize that success comes from creating a positive student-athlete experience. The primary motivation for this decision was based on the significant obstacles to providing this experience for our football players.”
Roby added that Northeastern students will continue to participate in 18 different intercollegiate sports, more than 40 club sports, and hundreds of intramural teams. Recent successes include post-season play in basketball and hockey, and championships in women’s volleyball and soccer. The university opened this year’s basketball and hockey seasons in the newly renovated Matthews Arena to record crowds.
Since early 2007, a broad cross-section of the university—including trustees, faculty, students, alumni, donors, and senior administrators—thoroughly investigated the options and opportunities associated with achieving and sustaining excellence in all athletic programs. Ultimately it was determined that elevating and sustaining a competitive Division 1 football program would require additional multimillion dollar investments on an ongoing basis. A broad consensus developed behind discontinuing football and focusing future resources on programs—both academic and non-academic—where the university can achieve and sustain leadership.
The varsity football team played its last game of the season this weekend; players and coaches were told that the program will be discontinued before any public announcement was made. The timing of the decision was chosen to give players and coaches the greatest amount of flexibility to make future plans, either at Northeastern or other universities. Players who complete their degrees at Northeastern will maintain their athletic scholarships through graduation.
“Successful athletic programs play a powerful role in the life of the university,” said Philomena Mantella, senior vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, who oversees athletics. “They bring us together behind the common pursuit of excellence, and contribute to our sense of community. Our student athletes learn valuable lessons outside the classroom—about perseverance, teamwork and personal achievement. We continue to focus on excellence in athletics as an integral component to enhancing the student experience.”
In recent years, including during the current economic downturn, Northeastern has accelerated its momentum by making strategic investments in areas of strength.
“Northeastern has always been guided by the principle that we should focus on our opportunities for leadership,” said President Joseph Aoun. “This approach ultimately leads to difficult choices, but leadership requires that we make these choices. This decision allows us to focus on our existing athletic programs.”
“At a time when higher education is critically important to rebuilding our knowledge-based economy,” Aoun added, “universities have an obligation to invest resources in areas of strength—whether they are competitive athletic programs or cutting-edge academics.”