New petition seeks to save BYU-Hawaii athletics - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New petition seeks to save BYU-Hawaii athletics

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

More than 3,400 people have signed a petition calling for Brigham Young University-Hawaii to reconsider its plan to phase out its 11 Division II sports teams by 2017.

The school announced in March 2014 that it would eliminate the programs and use the funding to boost enrollment.

School's President John Tanner said he's aware of the new petition to save the Seasiders program but he's still moving ahead with his predecessor's plan.

"The NCAA athletics has gotten more difficult. There are more regs. You have to hire compliance officers," Tanner said. "It's
more expensive and more complicated."

University officials said the money saved will be used to help admit 500 more students from Asia and the Pacific, where the need is greatest for educated community leaders and the LDS church. Tanner also plans to enhance the intramural program.

"So we've got fitness, fairness, fellowship and fun, and I want to build a program that's remarkable that way and we won't be bound to just NCAA sports," he said.

But others argue doing away with the sports teams is a short-sighted.

BYU-H senior Clayton Kearl said he learned about leadership and teamwork through the school's cross country and soccer teams. He was devastated by the school's decision.

"I was gutted. I felt like they were stealing something from me," he said.

Today, there are roughly 180 student athletes at the schools. The program has helped to change countless young lives, according to supporters.

"For me, it's not going to have a big impact, but I think on the athletes it does," said Ken Wagner, athletics director at BYU-Hawaii, as he fought back tears.

According to Wagner, the school's previous president, Steven Wheelright, had said that the athletics program could be saved if supporters came up with a $35 million endowment.

Tanner said he isn't sure even that dollar amount would be enough.

"On our endowments, we talk about a little under a 5 percent payoff in order to put more money into an endowment, so it would be a high number, higher than 35 (million)," he said.

When asked what he would do if supporters came up with the funding, he replied, "If they came up with that, I'd certainly listen."

Under the current plan, teams will eventually be phased out as their seasons wrap up, with the program coming to an end by May 2017.

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