By Ken MacLeod
A group of concerned former University of Tulsa golfers emerged cautiously optimistic that their program could one day be resurrected after a private meeting with Tulsa director of athletics Dr. Derrick Gragg Thursday afternoon.
Gragg met with the media Thursday to explain the universityâ€™s decision to drop menâ€™s golf, a bombshell that went out Thursday morning and left current and former players and coach Bill Brogden surprised and dismayed.
â€œDuring a budget reduction time, the athletic department is not held harmless,â€ Gragg said. â€œWe looked at a lot of things and had a lot of discussions. We tried to minimize the damage.â€
Gragg said he was directed to cut back approximately $500,000. He said the budget for TU menâ€™s golf is approximately $280,000 in operating costs and another $232,000 in scholarships. The menâ€™s team is allotted 4.5 scholarships. If those are divided among eight or nine golfers, the amount of money those students bring to an expensive private university would alleviate much of the scholarship outlay.
Gragg said it was natural for the current and former players to be upset and that, as a former athlete (football at Vanderbilt), he too would want answers. He also said if financial circumstances changed, either for the university or private donors stepping up, he would be glad to reevaluate the decision. He noted it would take $6 million to $7 million to endow the funding for the golf program.
Former players who met with Gragg after the press conference included Matt Mabrey, Michael Boyd, Martin Maritz, Mike Alsup, Billy Lowry and Colton Staggs.
â€œHe was very candid but I left with hope that with funding it could return,â€ Boyd said. â€œGiven all the circumstances, thatâ€™s the best we can hope for at this point. I think youâ€™ll see some moves in the coming months that will try at least to get the funding effort moving.â€
Mabrey said beyond losing the program, he was very concerned about how the announcement affected the legacy of Brogden, who was set to retire this spring after 30 years as TU coach.
â€œI owe all my success to Coach Brogden and he did more for me than any coach would do,â€ Mabrey said. â€œHe helped me grow as a person and a man. He was always more concerned with me as an individual than with my golf scores. He went above and beyond. Itâ€™s heartbreaking to see his legacy end like this.
â€œTulsa golf has a large community of supporters and I think they will come together and I hope we can get the program back.â€