Gillette, Sheridan college officials recommend cutting athletics


By Miles Englehart

Gillette News Record

Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — With little to no forewarning, Gillette College and Sheridan College informed coaches Thursday that their entire athletics programs have been cut.

Estevan Sandoval, a Gillette College men’s basketball assistant coach, said coaches received an email Wednesday afternoon about a meeting set for Thursday morning.

At that meeting, Sandoval said Gillette College Vice President Janell Oberlander and a human resources representative broke the news and “basically fired all of us.”

With little to no forewarning, Gillette College and Sheridan College informed coaches Thursday that their entire athletics programs have been cut.

Estevan Sandoval, a Gillette College men’s basketball assistant coach, said coaches received an email Wednesday afternoon about a meeting set for Thursday morning.

At that meeting, Sandoval said Gillette College Vice President Janell Oberlander and a human resources representative broke the news and “basically fired all of us.”

Sandoval said Oberlander has been great working with the sports programs in the past, but he thought there was surely a better way for the Northern Wyoming Community College District to handle the situation.

“Nobody knew. There was no communication with any of our staff to say, 'Hey, how can we remedy this?'” Sandoval said. “I just thought it was very unprofessional of them to just say, ‘You guys are done,’ and no talks with us about how we can cut money.”

The Gillette College women’s basketball program, which finished last season ranked No. 21 nationally, also confirmed Thursday on Twitter that its program has been eliminated.

Both the Pronghorn men's and women's soccer programs also were axed, as well as nearly all athletics at Sheridan College. The rodeo program is the only program that will continue at both schools, but with a "significantly reduced budget," the release said.

The Northern Wyoming Community College Trustees on June 18 identified a "financial emergency" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release late Thursday afternoon. The athletics programs were notified a week later that cutting them would account for a $2.8 million savings in the college district's budget.

“This decision was far from easy and definitely not something we wanted to take away from our student-athletes," said college district president Walter Tribley in the press release. "However, we simply cannot maintain a vision that includes full-time coaches, full-ride athletic scholarships coming from our general fund, and expensive recruitment and travel.”

In addition to athletics, the college district also is cutting $500,000 from administration and academic budgets, along with $260,000 from campus police. The overall budget cuts come to nearly $4 million.

Athletes, like Class of 2020 Thunder Basin High School graduates Chastin Nelson and Jersie Taylor, also found out Thursday that they still have scholarships to attend Sheridan College, where they had committed to the school's volleyball and basketball programs, respectively.

Taylor was working at a kids basketball camp Thursday about lunchtime when her father told her the news. She’s already been contacted by a few other college teams to see if she's interested in switching, but her future is now uncertain.

“(Sheridan) was really the only school that I liked and felt comfortable with. I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Taylor said. “It’s difficult and hard. It’s all just confusing.

"That’s the whole reason I went to Sheridan, because I wanted to play another two years.”

With rumors flying around Thursday morning, Nelson said she initially heard that her volleyball scholarship would be pulled. But she learned during a team Zoom meeting that her athletic scholarship would be honored as an academic scholarship.

The same will be done for all Gillette College scholarship athletes, said Sandoval.

“But the thing is, the only reason these girls signed up for Sheridan (or Gillette) College was they wanted to play the sports they love,” said Kim Nelson, Chastin’s mother.

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