Armstrong State ending athletic programs pending committee appro - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Armstrong State ending athletic programs pending committee approval

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

A joint committee is recommending that after this semester, Armstrong State Univesity should retire all of their athletic programs. 

The school is getting ready to make a change that will affect hundreds of students, athletes, and coaches forever. 

"Why does it have to be this way?" The school asked us to clarify on Wednesday. It's because of NCAA rules. You can't have one school with two different athletic departments, and furthermore, one school with both Division 1 and Division 2 teams. Because of that, the Armstrong Pirates are no more. 

No one knows what will happen to the baseball field where the Pirates hold four conference titles - or the tennis courts that are home to 13-time national champions. As the school year comes to an end, so will Armstrong athletics. 

"You get attached to these student athletes. They have made a commitment to our institution. To have to be the bearer of bad news is difficult and it's a sad day for Pirate athletics," said Armstrong State Athletic Director, Lisa Sweany. 

More than 160 athletes, 30 staff members, and 12 NCAA teams are in their final days. Baseball, softball, golf, and tennis will be the last teams to compete. Armstrong tennis holds more than a dozen national titles. Along with the rest of the student-athletes, leaving this season on a good note is about more than pride. 

"If they can go out on top they will make themselves a lot more marketable to hundreds of schools that are dying to have them. Who would not want a national champion on their team," said Armstrong State Head Tennis Coach, Sean McCaffrey. 

"They are going to be the last ones to put on the Pirate uniform, and how special that is."

Athletes who transfer will be eligible to compete immediately. Should they stay, their scholarships will be honored academically. However, if they choose to try out for a varsity team at the new Georgia Southern, they may risk losing that scholarship and be considered a walk-on if they make a team. 

Georgia Southern Athletic Director, Tom Kleinlein released this statement following the decision: 

"Obviously, this is a tough day for Armstrong State Athletics. Announcing this recommendation now gives the student-athletes an opportunity to make decisions about their futures and provides the proper amount of time to make those decisions."

We have seen the last of the Pirates, but for a school that has graced Savannah with athletics for half a century, they will not soon be forgotten. 

"When people look back on Armstrong State Pirate athletics, they are going to say they did it the right way, and they were successful in doing it." 

Armstrong Athletic Director, Lisa Sweany, told us there is no animosity towards Georgia Southern. She has been working closely with Tom Kleinlein and says he has been very supportive. She also said that Armstrong staff members will have employment through 2017. Many coaches are already looking at new jobs, like head baseball coach Calvain Culbertson.

"I came here like you said as a 17-year-old kid out of high school and I've had 33 years here. I'm finishing my 22nd year as a coach here at Armstrong. I've spent my whole adult life here and never wanted to be anywhere else, I've turned down other opportunities to do other things because I love Savannah and I've loved Armstrong all these years,” said Culberson.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 24, and the recommendation is expected to be approved then.  

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