The Menlo College Board of Trustees announced Sunday that they have voted to end the school's football program, citing scheduling issues and financial "realities" according to a press release issued.
"This decision was not one made lightly, knowing full well the deep consequences it has on our student-athletes, their hardworking coaches and staff, and our dedicated supporters and alumni," Menlo President Dr. Richard A. Moran said in the release. "The Board of Trustees considered the issue carefully, but ultimately decided that the closure of football was in the best long-term interests of the college."
On a campus where over 50 percent of the approximately 750 students are involved in athletics, the news brought shock and sadness, as well as understanding.
Menlo was bucking the trend by continuing to support football at the NAIA level (and NCAA Division III) without the benefit of participating in a conference. The school was a member of the Northwest Conference between 2006-10 and was the only school outside of Washington and Oregon.
Menlo had explored the possibility of joining other conferences as a football-only associate member since then.
"This difficult decision reflects a strong commitment to the future athletic program needs and the stability of our entire student population," Menlo Athletic Director Keith Spataro said. "Menlo College has struggled for years over the football program's financial viability. The cost, and the inequity of the expense of football compared to other athletic programs were major contributing factors to this decision."
Menlo College has been the only non-NCAA Division I institution sponsoring football in the Bay Area since 2004.
All current student-athletes will retain their scholarships if they choose to remain at the school, and those with remaining eligibility choosing to transfer will be eligible to play immediately. Coaching salaries will be honored through the 2014-15 academic year.
Menlo College will continue to sponsor 12 varsity athletic programs. The school stated they are committed to fully supporting those affected by this decision while they determine the best decision for the future.
Football, as well as all Menlo sports, was originally played at the junior college level, although the school began offering a four-year program in business administration in 1949. The Oaks rarely traveled outside Northern California to play games.
Menlo decided to transition into a four-year sports program in the 1980s and ultimately, under legendary coach Ray Solari, began recruiting for the shift.
At the time there were several colleges in the area that supported football teams, including Santa Clara, St. Mary's, Sonoma State, Cal State East Bay (then known as Hayward State), and San Francisco State.
The Oaks finished 4-4-1 in 1986, their first year as a four-year program, and then went 7-2 in 1987, earning the program's first and only postseason appearance. Menlo lost its first round game to Central College, 17-0, in Pella, Iowa.
Solari, who attended California and played one year, as a guard, with the Cleveland Browns, took over at Menlo in 1972 following a successful high school coaching career at South Pasadena.
Bo Molenda, who played and coached in the NFL, served as football coach and Athletic Director at Menlo between 1950-1969, winning seven conference titles.
The Oaks compiled a 111-165-2 record in 29 years at the NCAA Division III level according to records provided by NCAA.org.
Menlo went 7-3 in 2003, its last winning season, though the Oaks have finished at .500 three times since.
Former Menlo quarterback Zamir Amin holds the record for most yards gained in a game when he compiled 723 (the 731 passing yards is also a record) against Cal Lutheran on Oct. 7, 2000. He also had a 574-yard game against Linfield earlier in the season, the 11th-highest total.
Amin ranked seventh all-time in career passing efficiency at the time he finished at Menlo, with a 160.5 rating. He's currently ranked No. 17. Amin is among the career leaders in a number of categories.
Wide receiver Nate Jackson, who later played in the NFL, averaged nine catches a game for the Oaks in 29 games (and scored 43 touchdowns) between 1999-01, second on the all-time list. He caught 101 passes in 2000. He averaged 137.1 yards a game, third on the all-time list.
Amin and Jackson, also among the career leaders in several categories, helped Menlo set a record for most yards gained per attempt in a season with a minimum of 450 attempts, gained 9.5 yards per attempt in 2000 (479 for 4,529). The Oaks led the nation that season, averaging 452.9 yards passing a game.
In 2006, Menlo's Jihad Mahasin led all Division III kickoff returners with an average of 33.2 on 17 returns. In 2001, Menlo's Gino Gosciaco returned a kickoff 100 yards against La Verne.
Menlo's Todd Whitehurst recorded an 84-yard punt against Cal Lutheran in 1997, tied for the eighth longest.