To Tom Farrell, Duquesne University is family.
His father, James “Hooks” Farrell, was a standout basketball player for the Dukes in the late 1940s. James was head men’s golf coach at the Pittsburgh Catholic school from 1950 to 1960, an assistant basketball coach from 1951 to ’55 and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. Now 85 and playing golf almost every day weather permits, the elder Farrell still keeps close tabs on the university.
Tom Farrell was a member of the Duquesne golf team from 1979 to ’81, and two of his brothers played basketball for the Dukes. For the past six years, Farrell, 51, has served as Duquesne’s men’s golf coach, a part-time position that he performs in addition to his consulting business. He says he accepted the golf post “as a labor of love.”
So when Farrell got the news Jan. 25 that the school will eliminate men’s golf after this season, it was quite a blow.
“I understand this is a business and everyone is going through some tough economic times,” Farrell said. “Still, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Baseball, wrestling and men’s swimming also will be cut. The move will leave the school with 16 sports – seven men’s and nine women’s – one more than the minimum for NCAA Division I membership.
“I understand why they did it,” Farrell said. “My big problem is how they did it. It was like, ‘Boom, you’re done.’ I think they could have handled it a little better.
“It was like Black Monday. Some of the kids just stared like deer in headlights. I feel it’s truly heart-wrenching for these kids. They’ve really been dealt a bad hand.”
Messages left with athletics director Greg Amodio were not immediately returned.
Student-athletes in the affected sports will retain their scholarships until their eligibility runs out, and coaches will be paid through June 1. The school expects to save $1 million annually and distribute that money to the other sports programs.
Of that amount, only about $80,000 will be saved by cutting men’s golf. Farrell said his budget included 1 1⁄2 scholarships and nominal amounts for recruiting and travel expenses.
The program has struggled in recent years. Since 2001-02, the Dukes have placed no better than ninth in the Atlantic 10 Conference, with a best finish of secondin 1979-80. They have steadily fallen in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, from 230th in 1999-2000 to 277th this fall.
Farrell’s squad consists of one senior, a junior, a sophomore and four freshmen.
Junior Ben Wolfe, the Dukes’ No. 1 player, said the news came as “a shock.”
“It just kind of leaves us all out in the cold,” Wolfe said. “No one really knows what to do right now.
“The whole thing just doesn’t seem fair, but there’s not much we can do about it.”
– Lance Ringler contributed