NEW ORLEANS -- The men's tennis team at Southeastern Louisiana has become the first of what could be several college sports teams eliminated across the state because of widespread cuts to higher education.
Officials at Southeastern Louisiana, located in Hammond, announced the move to drop the 10-player men's tennis squad on Tuesday night, saying it was in reaction to next year's proposed state budget, which calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities.
"Obviously this is not our preference. However, considering the magnitude of the impending cuts there was no option," Southeastern athletics director Joel Erdmann said. "The reality of the cuts and their impact on the lives of student-athletes and athletic department personnel is definitely coming to light."
Southeastern plans to retain men's tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women's team, which for now will be spared.
Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed deep reductions in higher education spending as part of wide-ranging austerity measures meant to deal with declines in state revenues caused not only by the national recession, but also because of the drop late last year in oil prices and tax breaks approved in recent years by the state lawmakers.
Louisiana's overall state budget relies on royalties from coastal oil and natural gas production, leaving it vulnerable to commodity boom-and-bust cycles.
The proposed higher education cuts are effecting both academic and athletic departments at the state's public universities, though in some cases the feared loss of sports teams is drawing the most attention because of the fan following some of those teams have.
At the University of New Orleans, all teams are under threat, though last week New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn formed a task force aimed at saving sports at the main public university in Louisiana's largest metropolitan area.
State higher education cuts are not expected to affect LSU's athletic department, which is self-supporting and does not rely on any state tax revenue. But every other state university in Louisiana is planning to trim spending in athletics, even if they do not eliminate teams.