Sports

Traveling, financial concerns blitz Menlo College football

 

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.

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Bill Dunlap
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:40 am

This is a travesty and many alums are not going to take this sitting down. Menlo's move out of Div. III to NAIA was not smart. There are very few schools on the west coast which meant extremely high travel coasts. The Menlo Athletic program and its leadership has been in question for some time and there needs to be a full overhaul. As a past football player at Menlo and a son of a Hall of Fame member ,it's time to get a new board. This is the culmination of years of bad governance of the part of the trustees. The revolving door of presidents highlights that point. Menlo will have football again!


4 people like this
Posted by McCloughan
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:06 am

I hear Campbellsville University has a Linebacker #46 that seems a sure lock to get some NFL looks and that's an NAIA team,with players like these (diamonds in the rough)at smaller schools how can they not afford keep football program around.


7 people like this
Posted by Dale V
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Bad deal.
A school with only 750 students needs a football program to help fill desks and beds. I have to believe this will hurt their enrollment. Should have stayed NCAA III and play SCIAC schools in the south and the small schools in Oregon and Washington. Many of those schools are close enough to bus too, without a flight they become affordable games. Plus those schools all are looking for games on the west coast to save their on travel costs.


9 people like this
Posted by Teri Schroeder
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm

As a Mom of a recruiter player (ready to commit) for the upcoming 2015 season and the wife of a Menlo football alum, I concur with the above comments....this was a financial move that Menlo will regret. On our recruiting visit just last week, yes, the AD obviously allowed continued recruiting visits, Menlo was touted as a "family" not a school. Who does this to family? With new leadership always comes heartache, especially those that make drastic financial decisions right out of the gate. You are talking about disrupting the lives of not only 75 football players/10 coaches but their families, their friends/students that still attend Menlo. I will not be surprised at the backlash that is about to come.
Menlo stood out and was unique...Menlo was not bowing down to financial stress...The football program is what was special about Menlo. Now, Menlo will be like every other small college....average. I absolutely believe many will transfer. Shame on you, board of trustees and president, sounds like you did this behind closed doors as well. Where is the support from the AD? I don't see it?


8 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2015 at 3:02 pm

It's a shame Menlo has to sacrifice football for academics, but if its alums won't support the program, then cutting football off is a sound business decision. Perhaps Menlo should concentrate on building up a more generous class of alums.


5 people like this
Posted by Michael Daw
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2015 at 3:28 pm

What a shame for the team. There was no warning, just boom you're out.

My grandson like many of the other players will be forced to look to other
schools and miss out on the excellent education they would have received
at Menlo.


12 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 2, 2015 at 4:41 pm

From a Menlo College Football Players Parent

Just another issue that came with Menlo dropping its program, last Friday was the last day students could transfer without any penalty for THIS semester. So they made this "decision" on the last day that anyone could leave the school. So all in all they do not allow us to leave, keep our tuition checks for this semester, and then cut the program. Someone needs to publish that!


5 people like this
Posted by Bill Dunlap 69'
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:37 pm

There has been a solid group of alums starting in the late 50"s and up to the present that have specifically supported Menlo Athletics. That support has now gone up in smoke. The board of trustees has been running Menlo with improper governance for years. As a past board member for a very short time , I know first hand how they operate. They need to be removed immediately. About 30 of us from the late 60's are drafting a letter that we will be presenting to the president and the board demanding their removal. Please contact us should you wish to sign. And for those students and parents (football players) that have just payed your tuition which is now not refundable because they delayed the decision until today, please contact us as well. bill@wedunlap.com


8 people like this
Posted by Dad
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 12:47 am

The administration orchestrated this perfectly to their benefit and to the student athletes' detriment. By holding this announcement off until after the deadline for dropping classes and after most application deadlines for other colleges have passed, they keep their tuition dollars in tact and make it harder for impacted students to transfer. Losing 100 of their 750 students mid year would have hurt their bottom line too much.


4 people like this
Posted by Kelly Peterson
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 1:46 am

I am a bit dismayed by this news. I haven't been an involved alum or participated in the many events I have been invited to over the years. I played both football and baseball (as did others) during my time at Menlo in the early nineties. I have lived vicariously through the friendships I made during those years on the happenings of Menlo college. Many friends kept me apprised of what was occurring at the school both positive and negative through the years. This news is dumbfounding. The football program has been an enticing attraction for many student/athletes not sure what there path might be post high school. I have personally guided 2 players to the college because of my own personal experience in attending the institution. I saw a quote stating that the decision "mirrors the athletic obstacles" many other schools are facing when it comes to football. This may be true, of PUBLIC institutions. I have read more about smaller colleges and universities reinstating their formerly deposed programs than any closures. With the revolving door of presidents and administration it appears the football program is becoming a stopgap for gross mismanagement. Don't send me another full page glossy on the "family atmosphere" that Menlo offers its students, the administration just turned its back on the only true family they ever had.


2 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 7:04 am

Very sad, another opportunity gone for student-athletes wishing to continue to play
but more importantly an administration that lacked vision


Like this comment
Posted by John Donegan
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 10:42 am

As a former player (1968-69), I find this to be sad news. Despite a couple of poor seasons, and my own lackluster abilities, it was a great experience. I think the current students will be the poorer for the loss.


Like this comment
Posted by Kristina Freelen
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm

This is unbelievable. Was there even a warning sign given before the football players were blind sided? My daughter goes to school there and just says it is absolutely devastating. The aura of campus is so sad. So, what can we do as a community to reinstate the program? Fund raisers, appeal to the alumni,and businesses, silent auctions, any one and thing that can be thought of.


Like this comment
Posted by Regina Riviello
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm

My son is in his Junior year at Menlo-Atherton High School, where he maintains a 3.5 GPA. Menlo College has gone from being in his top 3 choices, to not even being on his list of potential colleges and universities.
We are most devastated by the fact, that even if he cannot play college football, he would have been able to at least be a spectator by attending Menlo.
I have been out in the community and the prevailing belief that is that Menlo College has hopes, delusional or not, of trasitioning to be some type of Silicon Valley "feeder" institution for the Google's and HP's. If this is true, Menlo College is dead as we know it to be. Just another fine example of how, while rise of Silicon Valley is great, it does not necessarily benefit all of its residents.


3 people like this
Posted by Teri Schroeder
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 5:53 pm

I feel all should know that two of the Menlo trustees are football alumni........Kane and Long obviously voted for the elimination of the very program they once loved and gave their best too. I have read the vote was 15-0 for elimination. Betrayal at its best! How can two former players under the direction of the great and life motivating Ray Solari, make a conscious decision like this?

I am sure they are hiding out right now........They should be brought to the campus and show their faces to the players they have devastated......Devastated! !


5 people like this
Posted by Lou Schroeder
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I attended menlo and played football at Menlo from 85-89. I had a great experience there and football was a huge part of that. Good school with lifelong friends. I am shocked and stunned that Menlo, the innovative business school that it professes can't come up with solutions instead of killing such a big part of its history. To not bring this issue out in the open for discussion/problem solving, pretty sure I learned that at Menlo, is shady at best. Three weeks ago menlo had offered my son an athletic Scholarship to attend Menlo. I was very excited and was very much selling the great experience he would have there. We just flew out there last weekend to visit the campus. Why would you allow scholarships to be offered and let recruits and there families pay to come out and visit the campus as a perspective player? That makes absolutely no sense, cowardly! I guarantee this decision was not made within one week. That in itself, shows what poor leadership there is at menlo college. I am very sad that my son will not have this same opportunity that I had. I am also extremely disappointed in one of my own teammates that is now on the board of trustees, Micah, I can't believe that you would not fight this!!! After the opportunity that Menlo gave you. You would not have been there or me for that matter if it wasn't for football. Unbelievable. I will sign a any petition for change in leadership at Menlo. Lschroed19@gmail.com.To do this in this way at this time is unexcusable. I feel for the current players and coaches that I met last weekend and am embarrassed as to how menlo has treated there community members. I am ashamed today to call myself a Menlo alumni. This decision will hurt Menlo in more ways than they will know, you can now watch Menlo whither away and die a slow death as they lose a third of there enrollment and much of there alumni support.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Interesting with all of the finger pointing going on. Yet no one acknowledges that the football program is a big money sink hole. It doesn't break even and certainly will never profit. So while you're complaining about presidents and ADs, either organize and get out your checkbooks or get out your scrapbooks & go over your fond memories.

USF, St. Mary's, Santa Clara, UOP --- they all made rational decisions. And I'm frankly surprised that San Jose State has lasted this long.

Sorry for being so brutal - but football is an expensive sport...academic and/or tuition fees (or "student fees") shouldn't be accessed for such a thing. Team sports are fun and a great learning experience for those who participate. But the reality is that collegiate athletics are big ticket items...no matter the division.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long Time Fan
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2015 at 11:55 am

What is this really about. You know what they say: "follow the money." Keep an eye on what the trustees do next. Will they sell of the football field and use the money to make up for years of complacency and poor management?


Like this comment
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm

This kind of a decision does not happen quickly. Someone has been trying to sell this internally for a long time, (certainly more than one school year). Just thinking out loud here, but the one person who has been around that long is the AD (Keith Sparato). It takes a while to discredit a football team. To create a situation in which a losing season is the most likely outcome, you have to cut the budget and join a conference in which you cannot find opponents - and the ones you find, you cannot compete with.

If as much time was spent trying to figure out how to make it work as was spent trying to kill the program, things might be different now.

In most schools, fundraising is a large part of the AD's responsibilities. That has not been the case with Menlo football. The football budget has been shrinking for many years. The coaches have been trying to make something out of nothing and have gotten to a place where winning is beyond difficult. In reality, because someone made the decision to join the NAIA and cut the budgets, it has become virtually impossible for the Menlo football team to have a winning season.

With the team in this position, it becomes much easier to cancel the program.


Like this comment
Posted by Diana
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm

What is BIG SISTER STANFORD doing so far? Menlo is a well-known feeder-school for Stanford....What about the 49’ers Organization?....back in the day they used to practice at Menlo…..how can I reach them?.....I hear nothing but crickets!
Thank you for the local media! I hope they join the athletes and the parents on 02/28/15 at 12:00 pm for a protest right in front of school!


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2015 at 9:02 am

Menlo stopped being a feeder school decades ago when it converted to a 4 year school...and that was for academics, not football.

49ers had a practice facility in Redwood City, not Menlo.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo parent
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm

There are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue, but it is unbecoming of one of the best business schools in the West to make an important executive decision in secret and without hearing from the interested parties. If it is time to drop football at Menlo, that will come out at a fair hearing, and if not, that will come out too. Set a hearing and hear both sides! What is the administration afraid of?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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