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Report: BYU-Hawaii to phase out athletics over three years

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2014 2:20 p.m. MDT

BYU-Hawaii's Gary Satterwhite, left, and Junior Ale, right, check on teammate Jet Chang after a hard fall during the second half of an NCAA Division II men's college basketball championship against Bellarmine in Springfield, Mass., Saturday, March 26, 2011. Bellarmine won 71-68. (Jessica Hill, file, Associated Press) BYU-Hawaii's Gary Satterwhite, left, and Junior Ale, right, check on teammate Jet Chang after a hard fall during the second half of an NCAA Division II men's college basketball championship against Bellarmine in Springfield, Mass., Saturday, March 26, 2011. Bellarmine won 71-68. (Jessica Hill, file, Associated Press)

The intercollegiate athletics program at BYU-Hawaii appears to be headed towards an end.

KSL, citing a source close to the situation, reported Wednesday that the school will phase out its athletic program over three years. This comes on the heels of a Hawaii News Now report from Tuesday that the school is considering major changes to its athletics department, and that a closed-door meeting occured Monday at the school to discuss the situation.

BYU-Hawaii is a member of the Pacific West Conference, which includes Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. The Seasiders compete in 11 sports.

The KSL source refuted the idea that the move is being made for financial purposes.

From the Hawaii News Now story: "A closed-door meeting took place Monday between various Seasider coaches and administrators; one that allowed those present to voice their concern and to clear the air about the long-running rumor that the only university on the north shore of Hawaii could lop off one of the limbs that's helped BYU-H carve out an identity."

Students gather to raise their native flags to cap off Spirit Week at BYU-Hawaii. (Monique Saenz) Students gather to raise their native flags to cap off Spirit Week at BYU-Hawaii. (Monique Saenz)

The phasing out of athletics at BYU-Hawaii would have an effect on the state of Utah. Of the school's 11 sports programs, only one — women's volleyball — does not include a Utahn on the current roster. There are 47 Utahns on Seasiders teams this year, including 13 on the men's soccer team and 12 on the women's soccer squad.

Also, Ken Wagner — who has coached basketball at both the high school and college levels in Utah — is BYU-Hawaii's current athletic director and men's basketball coach. The BYU and University of Utah graduate has coached the Seasiders since 1990, leading the team to the NCAA Division II tournament Elite Eight three times. In 2011, BYU-Hawaii was the national runner-up in men's basketball.

The BYU-Hawaii campus.  (Deseret News archives) The BYU-Hawaii campus. (Deseret News archives)

Major change to a successful athletics program wouldn't be unprecedented for an LDS Church-owned university. Fourteen years ago, Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), in Rexburg, Idaho, announced the elimination of its intercollegiate athletics department. It was replaced with a robust intramural sports program.

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