The private school located 15 minutes west of Pittsburgh is thriving. Enrollment is skyrocketing so quickly the university bought a Holiday Inn located just off campus and turned it into a dorm. It wasn’t always that way. Robert Morris added six sports between 2004-06 in part to help make the transformation from commuter school into a destination. While Coleman allows it worked, it also stretched the department thin.
“For years, the emphasis was on growing enrollment and adding sports and not necessarily having funding to make those sports competitive,” Coleman said. “It was about quantity and not quality.”
The Colonials spent less money per student-athlete than any other program in the NEC. While there was enough money to field 23 teams, there wasn’t enough in the school’s $13 million athletic budget to give each sport what the school feels is necessary to become a contender.
The field hockey program, one the Colonials are cutting, went 11-8 this fall but is one of the few Division I programs in the country that doesn’t practice or play on an artificial surface. The substandard facilities makes scheduling difficult.
“It’s like having the ice hockey team practicing on slush,” Coleman said.
With no plans or money to build a state-of-the-art field and a travel budget stretched to the limit, the school felt it would be easier cut field hockey entirely. Coleman said several field hockey players are in the process of transferring, one of the reasons Robert Morris announced the decision early.
Coleman pledges to invest the estimated $1-1.3 million the school will save when the students for the six eliminated sports are off the books to beefing up the recruiting and travel budgets for the remaining sports, including a men’s basketball program that upset mighty Kentucky in the NIT last spring. The victory, complete with a court-storming at the final buzzer, gave the school the kind of splashy public relations boost Olympic sports can’t provide.