Robert Morris eyes title before losing program

Robert Morris senior Annie Bozich said the team's goal is to win a conference title.

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As Robert Morris senior Annie Bozich and her teammates walked toward a meeting with two of the school’s most powerful people, they already knew what was coming.

They were about to be informed by their Director of Athletics Craig Coleman and University President Greg Dell'Omo that the women’s golf program would be cut.

“A lot of people were very angry. There were a lot of tears in the room because it was a very hard meeting,” Bozich said. “After the meeting, we all met together and a lot of people were very bitter about it.”

It wasn’t just the women’s golf team that received bad news that day. Seven programs were cut in total, affecting 80 student-athletes and one full-time coach.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard anybody, even the kids that were involved, question why we were cutting sports in general. Obviously, kids don’t want their sport to be the one cut,” said Coleman. “No matter what the comparison group you use, if you look at our school in terms of percentage of the university’s budget that is given athletics, we are very high. But if you look at the amount of money that is spent per student-athlete, we are very low. … We are just spreading the very generous support from our university way too thin.

“We have more sports than the University of Pittsburgh, which is 20 miles down the road. … It just doesn’t make sense.”

Furman announced Feb. 7 that it plans to drop its men’s golf program, bringing an issue Robert Morris knows all to well to the public spotlight – working out an athletics budget with a small enrollment.

(Read more from senior writer Beth Ann Nichols on how Furman alumni and donors have fret about the loss of the men's golf program.)

The cuts will give Robert Morris 16 teams in total and save the department around $1 million annually. More than 5,400 students were enrolled at the school in the fall of 2013.

Scholarship athletes are offered a blanket release, allowing them to speak with other teams and play without penalty. Robert Morris will allow student-athletes the option to stay at the school and maintain their athletic scholarship, a short-term financial hit, but something Coleman said was the best decision.

But for now, the players are focused on going out with a bang.

“It’s hard now, but it’s important to remember what an opportunity it’s been,” Bozich said. “You have to play with a chip on your shoulder and put a positive light on it. We want to work harder because this is it. You won’t get another chance.”

The women’s golf head coach, Jerry Stone, will stay on staff because he also coaches the men’s team.

“It was hard to deal with. … I’ve never had to go through it so it was difficult for me as well,” Stone said. “Emotions were running pretty high. They were pretty much in a daze and were questioning, ‘Why us?’

“They all want to play. They want to play well and show everybody, ‘Hey, this is what you’re going to miss out on.’”

The team starts its spring slate March 10 at the Lonnie Barton Invitational in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“This year, we’re ranked third in our conference, but I don’t think that’s anyone’s goal. We all want to win the conference and go out like that,” Bozich said. ”(Winning the conference) would mean the world to all of us – leaving such a legacy behind, letting everyone know that this isn’t the end, this program should’ve never been cut and the ability this program has.

“It would be the ultimate revenge.”

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